By Patrick Cooley, Sports Editor
UNO outlasted the Missouri Western Griffons for a 96-84 win Wednesday night at Sapp Fieldhouse, though the game itself was a side note.
The matchup between the two MIAA schools marked the much-anticipated return of former Creighton guard P’Allen Stinnett, whose on-court antics led to his suspension and removal from the Bluejays last May.
A crowd of 1,328 fans came to see the former Bluejay who is averaging 16.9 points per game for the Griffons.
“I talked to him before the game a little bit about friends being here,” Griffon head coach Tom Smith said. “I mostly told him that you want to show everyone that you’re not the same P’Allen that was out here a year ago and acting like a fool. When he doesn’t do those things he’s a pretty good player – I thought he was pretty good tonight.”
When asked about mindset coming into his return to Omaha, Stinnett was clear.
“Stay out of the crowd,” he said. “Don’t look to see who’s here.”
Stinnett was one of Altman’s highest ranked recruits when he came to Creighton in 2007. As a freshman, he became the first Bluejay in 12 seasons to lead the team in scoring (12.6 average). However, his emotional style lent itself to on-court issues, mostly technical fouls. He also missed time due to other disciplinary action.
“I know I used to lash out a lot,” said the senior, who had been unavailable to the media since an undisclosed suspension two weeks ago. “But I’ve learned to control my emotions and just play the game. Things happen, but it’s not all about me. I think I was a little selfish with the game. I’ve learned to step back and let things happen, and have fun.”
The former Bluejay took the court sporting a Mohawk and his standard (now yellow) shooting sleeve. He was a non-factor in the first half scoring just three points on 0-for-3 shooting. UNO’s Torrian Harris and Tyler Bullock spent the majority of the game keeping the senior guard at bay.
“When you’re guarding a player like that you can’t expect to completely stop him,” Bullock said. “But I think we did a good job against him.”
The two teams combined to hoist 32 first-half 3-point attempts, making 16 each. The Mavs went into the locker room with a 50-42 lead.
As the second half began, Stinnett showcased his Division I talent. The senior scored 12 points in less than four minutes and put his team back in the game. A separation spin-move led to an easy buckle and gave the Griffons a 63-61 lead with just over 14:00 left.
“He scored 18 points, which is bad for us,” UNO head coach Derrin Hansen said. “But it took him 15 shots, which is good for us.”
The Griffons then saw their lead disappear on a 14-5 Maverick run. UNO was able to cool the hot-shooting Griffons, holding them to 3-of-12 shooting from 3-point range in the second half.
Bullock finished with a game high of 25 points, including 12-for-13 shooting from the free-throw line.
“The atmosphere and players make you bring your ‘A’ game,” Bullock said. “You’re going to want to hold your ground and show something.”
Senior forward Matt Starks added a career high of nine rebounds to add to his eight points off the bench.
“When they bring me in, I just try to bring some energy and make a couple [of] plays,” Starks said. “It was great coming into this kind of an atmosphere. There have been a couple games where it’s felt like there’s crickets chirping. [A game like this] makes us really want to play a lot harder.”
Mitch Albers finished with 20 points and Harris contributed 15 points and nine rebounds. The Mavs have won four straight games, including 11 of their last 14.
“We just got to keep winning,” Hansen, whose team still has a chance for a postseason bid, said. “It’s going to be a dog fight.”
Bullock Joins Exclusive Club
UNO’s Tyler Bullock became the 33rd player in school history to join the 1,000 Point-Club in his team’s 89-79 win at Truman on Saturday. The senior finished with 21 points and nine rebounds for the Mavs (15-7, 12-6).
Junior Mitch Albers led the Mavs with 25 points, shooting 8-for-16 from the field and 9-for-9 from the free-throw line.
UNO returns to action Wednesday, Feb. 16 as they host Central Missouri. Tipoff is set for 7:30 at Sapp Fieldhouse.