It’s been brought up enough to UNO.
The first time the Mavericks and Western Illinois met this season Jan. 11 in Macomb, Ill., UNO led by 12 points with 9 1/2 minutes to play, by eight with 4 1/2 minutes to go and by six with 2 1/2 minutes remaining.
The rematch is at 1 p.m. Saturday at Ralston Arena.
“We’re mad, I can tell you that much,” forward Mike Rostampour said. “And it will be an angry game, I can promise you that.”
The Mavs, who eventually lost that game 79-72 in overtime, have still reached the halfway point of the Summit League season at 3-4, tied with Western Illinois (and South Dakota) for fifth place. Had UNO won that game, it would be tied for fourth.
“That hurt us, because we had that game (won),” guard CJ Carter said. “We did some dumb stuff. We can’t have that on Saturday. We’ve got to come out and play hard.”
While there’s lingering resentment from players when asked about the first meeting, the outcome hasn’t been dwelled upon as much as focusing on Saturday’s result.
“We haven’t talked like that to our guys,” coach Derrin Hansen said. “But this is a home game, and we’ve played well at home and want to continue to do that. We can’t cry about what happened in early January. Hopefully we’ve moved on from that and are past that.”
Rostampour (1 for 5 from the field and limited to 17 minutes while fouling out) and Carter (2 for 16 from the field) were among the Mavs who struggled in the first meeting, so they’ve got extra motivation. Center John Karhoff had 25 points and guard Marcus Tyus had 15 in the first meeting.
“We were in good shape,” Hansen said. “There were a couple things we could’ve done better, but give them credit — they made more plays down the stretch than we did.”
Freshman guard Garret Covington led Western Illinois with 17 points and eight rebounds in the opener, while forward Tate Stensgaard had 12 points and 11 rebounds. Senior forward Adam Link scored 13 in 19 minutes off the bench, and freshman guard Jabari Sandifer had 11 points.
Western Illinois lists three freshmen — Covington, Sandifer and forward Mike Miklusak — as starters. Link, the team’s leading returning scorer, has been coming off the bench since league play started. Both Stensgaard and junior guard Remy Roberts-Burnett were out with injuries last weekend as the Leathernecks split, beating IUPUI but losing to IPFW.
Western Illinois, which tied for second in the Summit League last year, has won all five meetings with UNO since the Mavs began their Division I transition in 2011.
The Leathernecks control the pace of the game and rank 17th nationally in scoring defense (opponents average 61.2 points per game). UNO’s adjusted tempo, as measured by kenpom.com, makes it the fourth fastest-playing team in the country. Western Illinois ranks No. 328 in adjusted tempo.
“They’ve been really good,” Hansen said. “Obviously they are well-coached (by Jim Molinari) and their style of play keeps them in games.”
Had the Mavs won both the first meeting with Western Illinois and Jan. 30 at Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne — another game in which they had a double-digit second-half lead on the road — they would be tied for third in the Summit, one game out of first place.
Despite a couple of disappointing outcomes, UNO is still is good shape for an upper-division finish in the league with five of its remaining seven games at home. The Mavs hope that a top-four finish would give them the chance to play in either the CBI or CIT postseason tournaments.
“This is where you become a good team, or you can back off and become a ‘whatever’ team,” Rostampour said. “We’ve got to do what we’re supposed to do, because we came into the season with high hopes. We’ve just got to take care of business at home.”