I haven’t been able to get to many UNO games this season, and I didn’t even get to go last night but that was the best Omaha men’s basketball game I’ve ever watched.
In December, I had a detached retina that required surgery to fix that problem. I’ve been messing with that, and haven’t gotten out much because of it. I’m watching my parents’ house and their dogs as they are out of town, so I watched the game from the comfort of my parents’ kitchen as their dogs shuffled between begging for food and going outside and playing in the snow.
Baxter Arena hosted its largest crowd for a men’s basketball game with 4,228 in attendance. It could have been 4,230 had I forced my parents’ dogs to fend for themselves for an evening and convinced a friend of mine to go. My bad.
From home I could see the intensity in the arena, I mean, it was pretty intense from the kitchen I was watching from. It was almost like the game was played out from a screenplay.
After missing chip shots and officials appearing to protect and favor the famous Mike Daum, the Mavericks found themselves down 13 at halftime.
There was so much on the line in this game. It’s the Summit League’s top two teams playing for the top spot, a guaranteed spot in the NIT, and both teams would appreciate a top 2 seed in the Summit League tournament so they can have that Sunday night off from basketball – assuming they take care of business against their first round opponents.
According to Mitch Hahn in his post game interview, the Mavericks met at half time and discussed what they needed to do better to win that game. No one sat there thinking the Jackrabbits got them.
My friend and I have agreed that if the Mavericks lock up the 1 or the 2 seed in the conference tournament, we’re heading to Sioux Falls. We’re sports lovers and we’d go Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday if the Mavericks were playing but we’re adults and have jobs*. I admit, when David Jenkins hit a three to open up the second half and push the lead to 16, I seriously debated of texting my friend that we should just prepare to go to Bockfest at the German American Society on March 9th, instead.
Eventually, Mike Daum went to the bench and I thought to myself that this was the Mavericks’ chance to make a push to cut into the lead and make this a game. If it wasn’t going to happen then, it probably wouldn’t happen at all. With Daum on the bench, they cut into the lead. All of a sudden, I had faith.
Even with Daum back on the court, the team the Summit League sees as perfect started messing up. Turnovers and missed shots over a 4 minute stretch allowed the Mavericks to spark the comeback.
That’s the great thing about this year’s team. They take care of the ball and they have so many weapons on offense that if their opponents can’t take care of the ball, the Mavericks can take advantage. It’s not like a few years ago when the Mavericks as a team would have 8 assists on 20 turnovers, it’s the opposite of that now. They’re not spending a large portion of the game just shooting themselves in the foot with turnovers and bad shot selection over 8 minute stretches.
Once the Mavericks evened things up, the teams traded blows. Daum would hit a three, and then Hahn would answer. KJ Robinson would hit a big three, and David Jenkins was there to rip our throats out.
While Jenkins was lighting up the Mavericks, Omaha did the unthinkable and actually slowed down Daum. Daum was still creating space for Jenkins just by his presence on the court, but Daum was actually struggling in the game for a stretch.
For literally the first time of me ever watching Mike Daum play basketball, I thought he was actually intimidated. He appeared to be completely confused by Matt Pile. Excuse me, I want to retype that. Daum appeared to be completely confused by Matt ‘effin Pile. Daum looked like he couldn’t believe the sophomore wasn’t backing down from him.
In four years of witnessing Mike Daum, I have never thought he took a bad shot. In the second half, he was going right after Pile and for the first time I ever I actually said “what are you thinking, Daum?”
On the other end, I literally had a debate with myself asking if Mike Daum was bad at defense. Like, I really just couldn’t tell. Pile and Hahn weren’t afraid to get after him, and when guards penetrated Daum just kind of let them do their thing. It is worth considering, though, that the Jackrabbits really don’t have much of a bench so they seriously cannot afford Daum to get in foul trouble and go to the bench. I mean, look what sparked when Daum spent less than two minutes on the bench.
Don’t worry about Daum, he went 9-23 from the field and was the 3rd best player in last night’s game, but he’s still going to be voted Player of the Week.
The ending to this classic was about as perfect as they come. The Nebraska-native, who is probably the best player the Summit League has ever seen knocks down two free throws to force the Maverick fans to say to themselves “son of a…”
But 5.7 seconds is too much time for Mitch Hahn. The fellow Nebraska-native takes the ball the length of the floor and drills the baseline jump shot to seal the deal, and to create an even more intense final two weeks of the regular season for the Mavericks and Jackrabbits.
Third place Fort Wayne, who has won 5 consecutive games, comes to Omaha on Saturday for what should be another intense game. I’m not the smartest person alive, but I just kind of assume Fort Wayne wants a top 2 seed in the tournament. South Dakota State is at North Dakota State, the fourth place team in the Summit. The Jackrabbits are historically kind of bad in Fargo, but they won there last year.
Even with this being the best basketball game to be played at Baxter Arena to this point, the Mavericks can’t stop now. It appears Mitch Hahn and Zach Jackson understand this, and as they say: there is still a lot of basketball to be played.
*When are we going to stage a protest to have the Summit League tournament moved from Sioux Falls? The conference might get a third South Dakota school, and the rest of us have to suffer for it. If it’s going to remain in Sioux Falls can we at least set it up to where the conference championship isn’t on a Tuesday night? If Denver made the conference championship, they would have less than 50 fans at the game on a Tuesday night.