Men’s basketball establishes early dominance in Summit League

The team anxiously awaits the result of a three-point attempt by Zach Jackson earlier in the season. Photo courtesy Skip DeBusk.

Kenneth Pancake

The Mavericks have been firing on all cylinders ever since the middle of their west coast road trip.

They thrashed Rice to close out the non-conference portion of their schedule. They defeated Denver in a mighty performance at home. Mitch Hahn sunk a clutch three-pointer near the end of regulation to beat North Dakota in a thriller.

Now, Western Illinois is the next to feel the wrath of an emboldened Maverick team with a purpose. And just like that, Omaha took their seventh win out of their last eight games.

Coming off a last-second victory in Grand Forks, Omaha travelled to Macomb, Illinois, where they faced the Leathernecks. UNO led for a large majority of the game and they went on to win 80-71.

Zach Jackson (Omaha’s most recent 1,000-point scorer) posted 22 points off of seven field goals. Mitch Hahn found himself involved at the boards by grabbing a team-high nine rebounds. As a team, the Mavs shot over 43 percent from the three-point line and shot a field goal percentage of over 50 percent.

Now, Omaha is in pretty good shape with a 10-8 record (prior to a Sunday matchup against South Dakota) and a 4-1 conference record. They find themselves tied for second in the league with Purdue Fort Wayne.

One part of the newfound dominance is teamwork. While all-conference guard Zach Jackson has always been a focus point of Coach Derrin Hansen’s offense, the ball has been spread around a little more since the beginning of conference play.

Jackson’s points per game average has decreased slightly, while JT Gibson’s, Mitch Hahn’s, KJ Robinson’s and Matt Pile’s (Omaha’s other four starters) have all increased. Hahn has seen the greatest increase overall. Hahn has scored an average of 11 points per game; however, in the Summit League, his average is 15.2 points per game.

The most important development may be the Mavericks’ rebounding. Before the end of non-conference play, Omaha was ranked in the bottom 20 teams in the country (out of 350+) in that statistic. But there’s significant improvement: Omaha has racked up more boards than their opponents in their last three games.

Next, the Mavs play Purdue Fort Wayne in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The game will be called on 1180 Zone 2 at 6 p.m. on Jan. 24. Shortly thereafter will come an away game against Mike Daum and the South Dakota State Jackrabbits on Jan. 26.