By Mo Nuwwarah, Opinion Editor
The women’s basketball team fell just short of another massive upset Saturday at Sapp Fieldhouse, losing 62-57 to No. 20 Emporia State.
The Mavericks (6-14, 3-13), who upset then – No. 6 Washburn 87-83 on Jan. 22, appeared poised to claim another ranked victim, leading 57-56 with under a minute left. Emporia State (15-5, 12-4) remained poised, buckled down on defense and sank six free throws in the final minute to close out the game.
“It was pretty frustrating,” said UNO junior forward Heather Pohl. “They’re one of the most physical teams in the country. They knew when they needed to step it up.”
Maverick head coach Patty Patton Shearer shared Pohl’s frustration but was proud of how her team battled.
“We played really hard,” she said. “That was what kept us in the game because we shot 32 percent from the field and 54 percent from the line.”
Things didn’t look good for the Mavericks early in the game as they shot just 9-for-32 from the field and 3-for-9 from the free-throw line. The Lady Hornets, meanwhile, shot 6-for-15 from 3-point range en route to a 32-24 halftime lead.
Paige Frauendorfer, who scored nine points, led the Mavs on offense early in the second half, hitting a corner 3 and a mid-range jumper. She then assisted on another 3-pointer, this one by fellow sophomore Jessica Zaruba, who finished with seven points and six rebounds.
After a Jamie Nash layup closed the gap to 39-38, the Lady Hornets hit two 3’s to regain control and quiet the crowd.
Emporia State opened up a 10-point lead on two Brianne Boner free throws with just under nine minutes left.
That’s when UNO rallied, going on an 11-0 run over the next six minutes to take a 55-54 lead. The Mavs forced four turnovers during the stretch.
“Hustle was the primary key for us on defense tonight,” Pohl said.
Freshman forward Kelsey Balcom finally ended the Lady Hornets’ drought with a bucket that made it 56-55.
Nash responded with a driving layup after a hesitation dribble left her defender frozen at the top of the key. Nash, who finished with 12 points and five assists, then stole the ball on Emporia State’s ensuing possession.
After UNO failed to score, Emporia State’s Alli Volkens hit two free throws to regain the lead with 44 seconds left.
Pohl said the Mavs’ plan was to get a quick shot to set up a two-for-one possession scenario. However, the clock was down to 31 seconds by the time Nash misfired on a 3 from the left wing, forcing the Mavs to foul. Rheanna Egli sank both free throws to stretch the lead to three.
With 10 seconds left, Pohl missed an off-balance 3-pointer. Volkens hit two free throws to seal the win.
Despite the loss, Patton Shearer appreciated her team’s effort.
“We executed really well on defense,” she said. “It’s hard to not have that pay off.”