By Nate Tenopir, Sports Editor
Last Wednesday the UNO men’s basketball team played their final game at the Sapp Fieldhouse before moving to the Ralston Sports and Event Center next season. Alumni were in town to be honored and in-state rival Nebraska-Kearney was on the court trying to ruin all the festivities.
The scene was set for a historic night but if you asked Head Coach Derrin Hansen, he’d tell you it wasn’t something he mentioned to his team.
“Honestly, I stayed away from it,” Hansen said. “From what kids can read now and tweet now and twitter that, whatever all that stuff is, they know that stuff so you don’t have to mention that stuff to them as much as you used to. I knew they’d know that, so we tried to focus on the game. Afterward I really thanked them and I thought they deserved it.”
Junior Alex Welhouse scored 24 points, 18 from three-point range and helped spark UNO to two big runs that got the Mavs an 85-68 victory. Welhouse was 6 for 9 from long range, 9 of 16 on the night and added eight rebounds.
“I gotta give a lot of credit to my teammates,” Welhouse said. “C.J. (Carter) coming down the court, hitting me when I was open. One hundred percent it was my teammates finding me when I was open on that little hot streak I had, so I gotta give the credit to them.”
UNO led 18-13 seven minutes into the game, then went on a 12-4 run to get out to a 13 point lead in just four minutes. Welhouse knocked down two threes in the run ,then added three more on another Maverick run to start the second half.
After leading 49-33 at halftime, Welhouse scored 13 of UNO’s first 15 second half points and had the Mavs out to 64-40 lead. The closest Kearney got the rest of the way was 15 points at 81-66 with just 54 seconds remaining.
“We’re trying to find him to get those shots up,” freshman C.J. Carter said. “He was hitting so we had to find him.”
As a team the Mavs shot 38 percent from three and 43 percent from the field. Welhouse accounted for all but two of the eight made three-pointers.
The UNO defense limited the Lopers to just 32 percent shooting and scored 14 points off of 14 Kearney turnovers. The Mavs only turned the ball over six times and had 22 assists on 31 made shots.
“The assist-to-turnovers was really good to see cause I thought for the most part tonight we really shared the ball,” Hansen said. “And even with the change-up in defenses, I thought we had some good ones and I thought we passed it up and moved for a couple better ones.”
UNO senior Mitch Albers scored 19 points on just 5 of 13 shooting but got eight of his points at the free throw line. Albers career scoring total now stands at 1,769, just 47 points away from all-time leader Dean Thompson.
“After last year, I know C.J. (Carter) wasn’t here but they smacked us pretty good up there, and I know Ringo (John Ring) and I and (John) Karhoff and Welly (Alex Welhouse), we really wanted to get this one for all the alumni that was back for this last game. For me I had a ton of family in the house, I’m sure some of these Omaha guys did too…it meant a lot.”
Carter scored 14 points on the night but it felt like more because several of those shots came on acrobatic moves through the air or as Carter was falling to the court. The freshman also had four assists and three steals.
“It was a good performance. [I] was trying to go out with a bang since it’s the last game at the Sapp Fieldhouse,” Carter said. “With the shots, I was kinda throwing them up and hoping they’d go in and luckily they did.”
The Mavs will travel for their final two games of the season to Cal State Bakersfield and Western Illinois. They will move into the brand new 3,500-seat Ralston Sports and Event Center for the 2012/13 season.
Several alumni who hold statistical records were honored during timeouts and more than 40 former players were on court at halftime. A crowd of 1,949 gave the former players a standing ovation.
“I thought it was a great atmosphere, it was great having our alumni back,” Hansen said. “There’s a lot of faces that you haven’t seen in a while. I told our team I was really happy for [them] because it’s been an up and down year.”
“But then I really thanked them for what they did for our alumni that came back. That really meant a lot to me and it meant a lot to those guys.”