Omaha gives up lead late in loss to Western Illinois


Mitchell Cutcher

Sports Editor

Players watch on during the national anthem. Photo courtesy of Omaha Men’s Basketball/Twitter.

The Mavericks finished the first half strong, up by 12 points when the halftime buzzer sounded Saturday against Western Illinois. However, at the end of the second half, Omaha’s offense became stagnant and Western Illinois pulled away for a 75-72 win.

After a red-hot night in a loss against St. Thomas Thursday, Omaha started off slow against Western Illinois. The Mavericks started their matinee matchup 1-5 from the field, and they lacked flow and movement on offense. However, Jaeden Marshall gave the Mavericks a spark off the bench by scoring four early points. 

Marshall continued to provide Omaha with buckets in the first half, and hit two out his three shots from behind the arc. Another player who was key in the half was JJ White, who scored six points and had two assists. White had spent the previous two games coming off the bench but returned to the starting lineup against Western Illinois. 

The Leathernecks’ Trenton Massner had been on a roll going into this game. The senior guard averaged 24.4 points per game in January and scored a season high 46 points against North Dakota. Omaha made a point of guarding him tight the whole game and held him to 12 points on 10 shots in the first half. 

“I thought we did a decent job at times,” said Omaha head coach Chris Crutchfield on guarding Massner. “When you got a guy like that with the ball in his hands so much, he plays 40 minutes, he’s such a good player. He’s a smart player, and he’s going to make some plays.”

The Leathernecks would start the second half looking like a team that was going to make a run and eat away at the Omaha 11-point halftime lead. The Mavericks’ Ja’Sean Glover made several hustle plays to cut off Western Illinois’ momentum. Glover forced a turnover and then had an offensive rebound to keep the possession alive leading into a Marquel Sutton score. 

“He’s the utility, hustle, glue guy that we need,” said Crutchfield “He gets rebounds, he defends the other team’s best player and he has become a little bit of an offensive threat now. He’s a guy that eventually I think is going to be a really good player in this league.”

Omaha would hit a cold spell in the middle of the second half, scoring only three points in five minutes. Western Illinois pounced on the opportunity and cut the Mavericks’ lead all the way down to one. Ultimately, Omaha would surrender the lead with under two minutes to play. 

“They got a little momentum and we got stagnant offensively,” said Crutchfield. “Couldn’t get anything going offensively, turned the ball over which led to a transitional bucket and an and one. I saw the momentum shift then.”

Last week’s game against St. Thomas was the Frankie Fidler-show, who scored 33 points, but JJ White led in scoring for the Mavericks against Western Illinois. White finished with 16 points, and four assists. In total, the Mavericks had four players finish in double digits. 

The Mavericks will hit the road again next when they make the trip up to North Dakota. The Mavericks will head to Fargo, North Dakota first and take on North Dakota State on Feb. 9. Following that clash Omaha will close out the short road trip against North Dakota on Feb. 11.