Fidler gives Omaha win with buzzer beater


Mitchell Cutcher

Frankie Fidler won it for Omaha at the buzzer Saturday night. Fidler scored a career-high 25 points and had 21 in the second half alone. Photo courtesy of Omaha Athletics.

In a game that was back-and-forth all the way until the final horn, it was Omaha that came out victorious Saturday night over UMKC, 69-68. Frankie Fidler played hero, as the freshman made a shot at the buzzer and propelled the Mavericks to victory.

“That last shot, La’mel (Robinson) on the bench told me to go get it while the play was happening,” Fidler said of his game-winning shot. “I went and got it, Darrius (Hughes) came and set a screen, I see the defender pop out at me, so I split them, and I saw the lane wide open. That’s how I got that shot.”

Fidler had a monster second half as he scored 21 of his career-high 25. UMKC simply had no answer on how to stop the freshman during that stretch. Fidler has been a difference-maker this year and as of late, he has been the go-to player for this Omaha team.

Another player who had a phenomenal game was Akol Arop. While Arop may not have put up the stats on the box score, he was especially good in the defensive end. Arop was flying around, snatching rebounds and contesting shots. He finished with four points, eight rebounds, one steal and one block.

“If you have a big dunk or an athletic player with a block at the rim, or they are going to get an easy one, (Arop) catches up and gets it,” head coach Derrin Hansen said of Arop’s play. “It energizes your team, and it sparks your team. Someone might have made a mistake and it’s an easy quick layup for the other team, all of a sudden he comes out of nowhere and now you’re on the run in the other direction.”

Hansen’s squad showed a lot in this win that fans have not seen out of this team all season — but it was a refreshing turn. The Mavericks started the second half down eight points, but they fought back and eventually took the lead. After taking that lead, Omaha was able to hold on and keep the game close. The Mavericks gave themselves a shot to win the game at the buzzer, which Fidler was able to do.

It’s a crucial win for Omaha, as it not only ended another losing streak, but it could be the turning point for this season. Omaha still has seven games left to play and the Mavericks currently sit at 3-8 in conference play. In the life of a mid-major basketball conference, it does not matter how the season started, but how it finishes. All this Omaha team needs to do is make the Summit League Tournament to have that shot at finishing on top.

“We lost a couple of close ones just like that here like I said a couple of weeks ago, and that really changed the dynamic of our conference record,” Hansen said of playing in so many close games this season. “We are where we are, but to get one of those, it proves that we can, and it gives us something that we can watch on film.”

UMKC was led in scoring by Evan Gilyard II, who finished with 17 points and two assists. Arkel Lamar also had a solid game for the Roos’ as the sixth-year senior scored 15 points and pulled in 10 rebounds. Other notable players for UMKC were Marvin Nesbitt Jr., who had 11 points and nine rebounds, and Caden Boser, who came off the bench and scored nine points.

On the home side, it was Fidler who led the way, as he finished with 25 points and four rebounds. Dylan Brougham was the only other Maverick to reach double digits, as the big man scored 13 and grabbed five rebounds. Two players played significant roles for Omaha off the bench as well, in Darrius Hughes and Nick Ferrarini. Both scored eight points.

Omaha will look to build on their win over UMKC when they travel to Fargo, N.D. on Thursday, Feb. 3 to take on North Dakota State. That game will start at 7 P.M. After the trip to Fargo, N.D., the Mavericks will continue the North Dakota theme and take on North Dakota on Feb. 5 in Grand Forks. After the two games in North Dakota, the Mavericks will return home to host South Dakota on Feb. 10.