By Paul Freelend
South Dakota State ended UNO’s men’s basketball team’s winning streak at four games, but the Mavericks’ win over Augustana earned them a home game in the conference tournament.
UNO’s South Dakota road trip saw the Mavs defeat Augie 87-77 on Friday night and fall to SDSU 87-76. UNO’s 12-5 record in North Central Conference play puts them firmly in second place behind 14-1 SDSU, and will give the Mavs the right to host a first-round game in the NCC post-season tournament.
Corey Hahn led four Mavericks in double-digit scoring with 22 points in UNO’s 87-77 win over Augustana. After briefly trailing in the first half, UNO went on an 11-2 run that put them ahead for good. Augustana surged out of the half-time break to close to within three points, but Hahn keyed an 18-4 run that put the Mavs up 69-52 with 5:32 left. The Vikings tried to fight back by sending UNO to the free throw line, where the Mavs have struggled at times this season, but UNO held firm by hitting their free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
Hahn added to his 22 points with six rebounds and five steals, as well as shooting 12-13 from the free throw line. The Mavericks, as a team, shot 35-39 from the charity stripe. Adam Wetzel had 20 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots, while Seth Nelson had 16 points and two steals. Eddie King led the Mavs with 10 rebounds and also had three steals and two blocks.
SDSU had already clinched a tie for the NCC regular season title with an 83-71 win over Northern Colorado, but a win over the Mavericks would clinch the Jackrabbits’ 20th conference crown.
UNO led by as many as nine during the first half, but entered half-time trailing 41-27, mostly due to a 38-percent shooting performance in the first half. The Jackrabbits continued to pull away and led by as many as 21 at 60-39 before UNO mounted their final surge.
Eric Wiebers had 10 points in the Mavs’ 22-8 run that closed the gap to 68-61 with under six minutes left in the game. SDSU, though, would connect on 15 free throws in the closing minutes to clinch the game and top spot in the NCC tournament.
SDSU hit 28-39 free throws to UNO’s 11-16 and out-rebounded the Mavs 45-28. Nelson led UNO (21-7, 12-5) with 17 points, five steals and four assists. Wiebers and Tola Dada each scored 12 points while King had 11 points and three steals.
UNO will play its final regular season game Saturday against Northern Colorado with the game tipping off at 4 p.m. The NCC tournament will begin Tuesday, Feb. 26, and the Mavericks will host a 7 p.m. game at the Sapp Fieldhouse. UNO, along with the third- and fourth-place conference finishers, will host first round games and the winners of those games will play in the semifinals and finals in Brookings, S.D., at SDSU.