By Jason Sibson
The UNO men’s basketball team put a halt to their five-game skid on Saturday, winning a tight one 52-50 over the University of North Dakota on Senior Day at Sapp Fieldhouse. Guard Zac Robinson and forward Keith Price, Nebraska-Omaha’s only two seniors, combined for 16 points and 11 rebounds, but it was the play of sophomore Michael Jenkins that carried the Mavericks to their 12th win of the season.
Pending a possible home conference playoff game, Jenkins recognized his two senior teammates may never play another game at the Sapp and wanted to send them off with a victory.
“It feels good to give Zac and Keith a win,” said Jenkins, who had 19 points on 6-13 shooting. “It’s never good to lose five in a row, and I’m glad we were able to win this game on Senior Day.”
A win seemed distant for the Mavs with seven minutes left in the game, when they found themselves down 46-39 to the Fighting Sioux. Players on both sides were exhausted from a physical 30 minutes, and the two NCC rivals were trading free throws.
Then, the will of the home crowd and the resolve to end the losing streak seemed to breathe new life into the Maverick bench. They put together an impressive 9-0 run to take a 48-46 lead, and a last-second runner in the lane by North Dakota went begging. The game ended at 52-50 and moved the Mavericks to 3-7 in conference play.
After the game, Coach Derrin Hansen reflected on another gritty battle with the Fighting Sioux.
“We had to fight for everything we got, it was a grind-it-out game,” said Hansen. “And we just happened to make the last play.” Hansen manipulated his bench throughout the game and was able to get 40 minutes of team ball out of his players.
“Our guys have always battled, and I’ve got to give them all the credit for this win.”
Hansen and his team now have a home playoff game in sight, needing a win in their final two games to ensure one more contest at Sapp Fieldhouse.
Both remaining games will be played in Minnesota, starting with Minnesota Duluth on Feb. 22 and Minnesota State, Mankato Feb. 24 to end the season.