By Nate Tenopir, Sports Editor
The UNO women’s basketball team finished their season in Louisiana over the weekend, splitting their final two games with a win Saturday and an overtime loss on Monday.
Junior guard Paige Frauendorfer led the way on Saturday, scoring a career high 26 points in UNO’s 88-57 blowout victory over New Orleans. Senior Heather Pohl was the top scorer on Monday, putting in 16 points in a 62-60 overtime loss to Louisiana-Lafayette.
After going two seasons without a winning record, first-year head coach Chance Lindley guided the Mavs to their highest number of wins since 2008/09.
“We’re very pleased with it, but our goal this year was more so to learn a new system, kind of change the culture and kind of lay some basics down to start to build a strong program in the years to come,” Lindley said. “As a result of all that happening, we were blessed to get some wins along the way.”
Saturday’s 88-57 win over the University of New Orleans was just UNO’s second Division I win of the season. But it was also one of their biggest.
The Mavs had defeated Dallas Christian by 51, York by 43 and College of Saint Mary’s by 39, but none of those wins were against D-I teams.
UNO jumped out to a 15-2 lead in the opening minutes and never looked back. The Mavs lead by 24 at one point, held the Privateers to just 29 percent first half shooting and led in rebounds 34-15.
The lead only grew in the second half. UNO shot 52 percent the rest of the way, continued to dominate on the boards and tied their season high for total points.
“Offensively and defensively we competed hard and we hit on all cylinders, so to speak,” Lindley said. “We didn’t have really any lapses throughout the entire 40 minutes of the game.”
Freshman center Taijhe Kelly had career highs in points (14) and rebounds (18). The 18 rebounds tie Kelly for eighth-best for a single game in school history. It was Kelly’s first double double of her career.
“Taijhe Kelly, I started her for the first time all year,” Lindley said. “She was big for us the whole game scoring 14 points and grabbing 18 rebounds. She was very aggressive on both ends for the whole, entire game.”
Less than two days later, UNO was back on the court in a Monday afternoon matchup at Louisiana-Lafayette. Missed shots and missed opportunities at the end of regulation and overtime kept the Ragin’ Cajuns in the game and eventually got them the win.
A three by Louisiana’s Brandi Schambough with eight seconds left in overtime got the Ragin’ Cajuns just their second lead of the game and was enough for them to hang on for a 62-60 victory.
“It wasn’t players taking bad shots that lost the game for us,” Lindley said. “It was just a combination of a lot of small, easy shots. It was just one of those days where we miss ones we usually make.”
The Mavs lead the entire game until the final 25 seconds of regulation. With 1:59 to go, Pohl made a shot to put UNO up 57-52.
From there the Mavs missed three shots and committed two turnovers while Louisiana got a layup and a three to tie. With under 10 seconds to go, junior guard Jamie Nash missed a potential game winning shot but teammate Stacia Gebers came up with the rebound.
Gebers put back missed as well and the game headed to overtime. Neither team seemed interested in taking control in the extra frame.
After two minutes and five missed shots, Louisiana finally made a shot and took their first lead 59-57 with 3:16 to go. UNO missed on the next possession but the Ragin’ Cajuns handed the ball right back over after two missed free throws.
Nash tied the game with a layup then Kelly made 1 of 2 free throws and the Mavs were back in the lead. UNO rebounded a missed three but then couldn’t extend the lead when Nash missed with 31 seconds left.
Louisiana called a timeout to draw up a play but Gebers blocked the shot. The Ragin’ Cajuns got the loose ball and called another timeout.
Schambough entered the game for the first time all afternoon and hit the game-winner. Gebers missed a shot with three seconds left and Louisiana escaped with the win.
“I think we did a great job almost the entire game of making them shoot tough shots and getting key shots,” Lindley said. “Even right there at the end of the game we had them playing our way, our tempo, our way of doing things.
“We missed a couple of big shots at the end of regulation and overtime. They hit a few big shots and we had missed opportunities on the offensive end that cost us.”
After losing in heartbreaking fashion, the best thing is usually to get back on the court and play. Unfortunately for Lindley and the Mavs, reclassification means ending the season earlier than usual.
Throughout the year Lindley has said that wins and losses weren’t really an accurate measuring stick for his team to look at themselves. Yet getting the program to a winning season for the first time in three years is some validation of where the program is going.
“I think it was a very, very successful first year,” Lindley said. “I think as a team we had some things we knew but we had a lot of things we also didn’t necessarily know – what kind of players we had, the way the schedule was gonna work.”
“There were a lot of unknowns. I think the girls did a good job of handling that. I’m also blessed to have a great staff that did an incredible job for me. I think overall to have a winning record your first year, you can’t ask more than that.”