It was a tale of firsts for Omaha in their 79-72 win over Idaho — first win of the season, first win over a Division I non conference opponent since 2020 — but most importantly, it was the first win of the Chris Crutchfield era.
The Mavericks ended the first week of the Men’s college basketball season with a win at home. Earlier this week, Omaha were the ones in Idaho’s shoes, struggling to get their offense going and having to fight their way back in the second half. It was an important win for the Mavericks, as they not only held a large lead in the first half, but they fought off the comeback in the second.
“We got off to a great start,” said Omaha head coach Chris Crutchfield. “I love the way our guys got off to a good start, and there was a lot of energy in the building, and they played well. I could not have asked for a better 20 minutes to start the game.”
Omaha came out firing on all cylinders as they stretched out to an early 19-3 lead less than eight minutes into the game. From there, the Mavericks dominated the first half in every sense of the word. They outshot Idaho from the field and behind the arc, winning the turnover battle and outrebounding them.
Once the second half started, Idaho began to cut into the 20-point deficit they dug for themselves in the first half. In that half, Omaha were able to stretch the floor and get out in run, but in the second half, Idaho slowed Omaha down. Another change the Vandals made in the second half was how they covered Frankie Fidler, and this disrupted the flow of Omaha’s offense.
“They (Idaho) denied Frankie the ball for about five or six minutes there and almost face guarded him, and they just made it harder on everyone else,” said Coach Crutchfield on how Idaho was able to disrupt Omaha’s offense. “It goes back to us having a young team and certain guys not being in certain roles to deliver when it’s time to deliver, and it causes your offense to get a little bit stagnant.”
Frankie Fidler showed out in Omaha’s first home game of the season, with 28 points, 11 rebounds and three assists. Marquel Sutton was the only other Maverick in double figures, with 16 points and eight rebounds. JJ White did his job and ran the offense, scoring eight points and assisting six shots.
The Mavericks kicked off the season with a tough slate, playing two teams from power conferences. Omaha dropped both away games against Kansas and Nebraska.
Omaha’s season began with a visit to Lawrence, Kansas, where the Mavericks fell 89-64. Omaha kept it close at times during the game, and at one point cut the lead to seven following a Luke Jungers three. However, the Jayhawks proved why they are the defending national champions, and pulled away for the 25-point victory.
Against Kansas, Omaha was led in scoring by Jaden Marshall, who contributed 13 points along with four rebounds in his Omaha debut. Jungers also continued his hot streak from the exhibition game, scoring 12 and making two threes. Kansas’ leading scorer was freshman Gradey Dick, who scored 23 in his Jayhawks debut.
Following the opening loss, Omaha made the short drive down to Lincoln for an in-state matchup. The Mavericks struggled to get into an offensive flow early and quickly fell behind. Nebraska rode the early lead to a 75-61 victory.
Omaha was once again led in scoring by Marshall, who scored 16, and hit three shots from behind the arc. Marquel Sutton also added 14 points and grabbed six rebounds. Sam Greisel, a familiar foe for Omaha having played at North Dakota State previously, scored 18, and shot 8-12 from the free throw line.
It is important to remember that Omaha’s season will not be judged off how they fared in their nonconference schedule in November. For the Mavericks, being from a smaller conference in the Summit League, it will matter how well they do in their conference matchups. For Omaha, this point in the season is about figuring out their rotation, growing their team chemistry, and improving as a team.
Omaha will again play at home on Wednesday, when they host Ball State, a team they lost to last season by one point. Following that game, Omaha will start a long road trip at Iowa on Nov. 21 and will not return to Baxter Arena until Dec. 13.