There are plenty of kids who dream of growing up and competing for their state's major university and playing on the same floor where they've gone to see state tournament games.
Alex Welhouse is one of those guys. Tuesday night the UNO forward gets a slice of that, as he returns to his home state to play against Wisconsin, his childhood team, at the Kohl Center.
“I was always a Badgers fan growing up, so it's nice to go back and play in front of a lot of family and friends,” said the fifth-year senior from Kaukauna, Wis. “I followed the football team every Saturday and then the basketball team all season. I wasn't one of those fans who knows every player on the offensive line, but I was definitely a fan.
“I always wanted to play (basketball) for Wisconsin, but I couldn't be more happy with how things have turned out.”
Besides Welhouse, two other Mavs, wing Justin Simmons and backup point guard Jacques Coleman, are headed back home. Simmons and Coleman are from Milwaukee, about 80 miles from Madison. Kaukauna is about 110 miles away.
“Those guys all probably thought the air smelled fresher when we got off the plane,” UNO coach Derrin Hansen said.
The problem for the three Wisconsin natives and their families and friends expected to be in attendance is that UNO is in for another mismatch in the 7 p.m. game.
UNO is 2-7 after big losses over the weekend at North Dakota State and South Dakota State, the preseason favorites in the Summit League. This is the eighth of 10 consecutive games away from home for the Mavs, and it's an $85,000 payday for the athletic department.
Wisconsin (5-3), which dropped out of the top 25 after losses to then-No. 10 Florida (74-56) and then-No. 14 Creighton (84-74), has also lost at home to Virginia. But the Badgers are coming off an 81-56 home win over previously-unbeaten California.
Wisconsin is considered a cut above the teams that just dispatched UNO.
North Dakota State beat the Mavs by 44, and South Dakota State built a 28-point first-half lead. Still, UNO outscored South Dakota State by 13 in the second half and lost by 15.
“I was very encouraged by the second half Saturday night,” Hansen said. “I thought we lacked a little fight at times. Both teams are really talented, but when you let teams pass where they want, cut where they want and shoot where they want, you're going to have problems.
“We finally pushed South Dakota State a little, and they reacted differently in the second half. Our physicality and toughness have to be better from the onset.”
Wisconsin isn't exactly the kind of team that many push around with regularity.
“They're big and they like to slow it down and run the swing (offense) instead of taking a quick shot,” Welhouse said. “...They're bigger than we are in a lot of positions.”
The Mavs follow up Tuesday's game with another payday Sunday at Iowa State, then play Dec. 15 at Denver before finally playing another home game — their first since Nov. 11 — on Dec. 18 against Benedictine (Kan.).
“It's been an experience,” Welhouse said. “But as long as you're taking care of your body, getting ice, eating right and getting your sleep, it's not too bad. But I'd be lying if I said all the travel didn't wear on you. I can't wait until Dec. 18 when we finally get a home game again.”
» NOTES: Forward Koang Doluony is still attending to a personal matter and didn't make the trip. ... Hansen said starting point guard CJ Carter is getting closer to full speed following a back injury.
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