By Mo Nuwwarah, Opinion Editor
The UNO Men’s Basketball team endured a roller coaster 2010-2011 season, falling just short of qualifying for the NCAA Division II Tournament.
The Mavericks finished 19-9 overall and 15-7 in the highly competitive MIAA. A heartbreaking 88-85 loss to top-seeded Missouri Southern in the semifinals of the conference tournament ended the season for Head Coach Derrin Hansen’s team. An 0-7 record against national qualifiers Fort Hays State, Missouri Southern and Washburn doomed the Mavs.
UNO got off to a rocky start, losing an early contest to rival Nebraska-Kearney, 86-74 on Nov. 23. Leading scorer Tyler Bullock and top reserves Jeff Martin and Matt Starks all transferred to UNO from UNK.
In early December, the Mavs dropped three straight road games to Washburn, Fort Hays State and Emporia State to open the conference season. Sitting at 3-4 , things didn’t look good for the Mavs.
They responded with a season-saving six-game winning streak. Five of the wins were decided by six points or less, including an 81-79 win at Central Missouri that was decided on a half-court buzzer beater by junior guard Mitch Albers, who finished with 26 points.
A seventh straight win barely eluded the Mavs, as they lost a 98-95 thriller at home to Missouri Southern. After a victory at Pittsburg State, UNO dropped two disappointing back-to-back home games to Washburn and Fort Hays State.
Again, the Mavs rebounded with a lengthy winning streak – this time, seven games. The run included an impressive four road games and put the Mavs back in contention for a berth in the national tournament.
Missouri Southern ended the streak Feb. 23 with a 92-78 win. But the Mavs ended the regular season on a high note, beating Pittsburg State 85-69 on Senior Day.
Entering the MIAA Championship, most assumed UNO would need two wins to qualify for the national tournament. UNO had climbed to 10th in the regional rankings, but needed to be in the top eight to qualify for the NCAA tournament.
The fourth-seeded Mavs opened with a 77-68 win against Central Missouri, led by Bullock’s 23 points. Nemesis Missouri Southern stung UNO one last time in another classic game. The Mavericks led by as much as 13, but couldn’t hold on despite shooting 13-for-25 from three-point range.
Bullock, a senior, averaged 19.1 points per game, while Albers put up 17.3. Torrian Harris, another senior, did it all for the Mavs, averaging 11.1 points per game while being the team’s lockdown defender. He led the team in rebounds and blocks and was second in assists.