The Omaha men’s basketball team lost their eighth straight game Wednesday night against the Drake Bulldogs, 78-70. Turnovers once again proved to be the difference-maker in a matchup that had it all, including fire alarms and an old friend.
In what was probably a first for a good amount of fans inside Baxter Arena, the fire alarms went off in the second half. With the alarms sounding and lights flashing, the referees asked if they should stop the game. However, they were told to play on.
That was just one of multiple storylines on the night, as Wednesday night also marked the return of former Maverick Ayo Akinwole. The Drake guard spent his first four years of his career in Omaha. Akinwole ranks third in all-time games played for the Mavericks and sixth in minutes played. When asked what it was like having to plan against a former player, Omaha head coach Derrin Hansen simply said, “he’s number 14 to me.” That’s the number Akinwole now wears for Drake.
“It felt kind of weird initially, just because I spent many days with him when he was here,” said forward Darrius Hughes. “At the end of the day, it’s just a game. You know it’s competitive, and there’s no friends on the court.”
It was Akinwole who got the better of his former team, as Drake came back after being down by 10 at the half. After yet another slow start, the Mavericks blew it open after the under eight media timeout in the first half. Omaha went on a 9-0 run, led by Nick Ferrarini, who continued his hot start to the season. He chipped in eight early points.
The Bulldogs’ comeback was done on the back of freshman Tucker Devries, who found his groove in the second half. Omaha was able to contain him early, but he popped off and finished the night with a game-high 24 points. Devries also had it going from deep and made five of his nine shots from behind the arc in the game.
On the Omaha side, this was the first game that both Wanjang Tut and Isaiah Poor Bear-Chandler were available in, after both had dealt with injuries early in the season. Hansen made it a point to play the two together in the first half as the pair entered the game off the bench.
“Both are coming off injury,” Hansen said. “Wan has practiced for about 10 days since February and he’s trying to get his feel back and he’s slowly getting there. Isaiah hasn’t practiced in a few weeks, and he has practiced three or four days, and he’s starting to get there. I hate to say it in mid-December, but we are, and there is no getting around it, but we are still a work in progress.”
It has been tough for the Mavericks to find a set lineup this season due to the injuries they’ve faced. They’re only nine games into the year, and Omaha has had six players miss a game already due to injury. Hansen talked after the game about how most teams already have found their eight guys by now.
Hughes led the Mavericks in scoring with a season-high 15 points. He also brought in six rebounds. Omaha was able to find a mix between the starters and the bench scoring in this game for really the first time this season. Omaha’s starting five combined for 40 points while the bench added 30.
Felix Lemetti joined Hughes as Omaha’s leading scorer, as he put up 14 points and made four of his seven shots from behind the arc.
Omaha will now play Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at home on Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. Following that home game, the Mavericks will travel to Las Vegas where they will square off with UNLV on Dec. 15. Omaha will open up Summit League play at home against Saint Thomas on Dec. 20.