IOWA CITY — As an improbable upset bid against Iowa continued, UNO huddled during a timeout and re-emphasized what needed to be done against the longer and stronger Hawkeyes.
“We told them at the 12-minute timeout that guarding the bounce and rebounding would be the two big things,” University of Nebraska at Omaha coach Derrin Hansen said.
CJ Carter made two free throws coming out of the timeout, giving the Mavericks a 61-56 lead with 11:35 to play. But Iowa went to work — both inside and off the dribble — and eventually pulled away to an 83-75 victory Sunday.
Fouls against ballhandlers led to Iowa free throws, and the Hawkeyes took over on the boards to secure a game in which 49 was the magic number.
Iowa shot 49 free throws and had 49 rebounds, trumping the Mavs by 33 (free-throw attempts) and 12 (rebounds).
“We didn’t guard the bounce great,” Hansen said. “And we were with them for a while (rebounding), but they ended up plus 12.”
The Hawkeyes shot 31 free throws in the second half, including a 10-for-12 performance in the 71⁄2-minute stretch after UNO took its 61-56 lead. Iowa outscored the Mavs 21-7 in that span, taking a 77-68 lead with 4:03 left.
So, UNO wound up a bit short. But still …
“It was a good atmosphere for our team to play in,” point guard Devin Patterson said. “We played hard. … Now we see that we can play with anybody in the country if we just play hard and believe what coach tells us.”
Last year, the Mavs’ first playing a nearly all-Division I schedule, they went on the road and took some considerable beatings against big-time basketball schools.
Sunday was different indeed.
UNO led for most of the game before a stunned Carver-Hawkeye Arena crowd of 14,271. It might have felt more like a win for the Mavs and more like a loss for Iowa.
“We have some experience,” said Hansen, whose team was picked to finish fifth in the Summit League. “This team last year was younger — we couldn’t have done what we did today last year. But we can do it against teams this year, at least for a while.”
Texas Tech (91-63), Wisconsin (86-40) and Iowa State (93-65) were among the power-conference teams that pounded the Mavs last year. And though UNO — in its third year of transitioning to Division I — may never be able to consistently hang with those types of teams, Sunday showed that the Mavs’ goals of being competitive at the Division I level have merit.
Iowa, with virtually everyone back from last year’s team that won 25 games and reached the NIT final, was coming off a season-opening 82-39 win against North Carolina-Wilmington, pleasing coach Fran McCaffery with its “professionalism.”
“It’s easy to say that it (professionalism) wasn’t evident today, but when you do that, you lessen what your opponent (UNO) was able to do,” McCaffery said. “Our opponent was ready to play and they played an incredibly good game, and I want to make sure they’re recognized for that.
“We can sit here and talk about what we should have or could have done. (But) they were making the shots and getting the rebounds. They were giving us trouble.”
Carter, the junior from Omaha Benson, scored 22 points and Patterson added 13 points, three assists and four steals for the Mavs (1-1), who were down to a nine-player rotation and coming off a Friday night win at Northern Illinois.
“We played a team that had a terrific plan and they executed to perfection,” McCaffery said. “I think they showed everybody what they’re made of. They went on the road (Friday at Northern Illinois) and won with their best player (Justin Simmons) going 0 for 9. That tells me all I need to know about the team we played today.”
Aaron White scored 20 points and grabbed 15 rebounds to lead the Hawkeyes (2-0).
“We had some matchup issues coming in, and he was definitely one of the biggest,” Hansen said.
Iowa’s Roy Devyn Marble scored 15 points but had to work for them — he was 2 for 13 from the field but 11 for 14 at the line.
Carter, Patterson and Simmons gave the Hawkeyes headaches with their dribble penetration for most of the game. And John Karhoff (11 points), Mike Rostampour, Matt Hagerbaumer (11 rebounds) and Simon Krych — all 6-foot-7 or 6-8 — gave the Mavs a fighting chance on the boards against the taller Hawkeyes. Karhoff, UNO’s best inside player, fouled out with 4:57 left.
“I’m proud of our guys’ effort,” Hansen said. “I thought we battled. I didn’t have any question in my mind that we would battle. How we’d battle would be the thing.
“Their depth, length and athleticism — we’re not going to see that every night. We’ll see it four or five times against teams like Iowa, but in our league we’ll maybe see it once.”