There’s at least one good thing about having interchangeable parts at the wing position.
When one goes down, there are some quality options to plug into the equation.
UNO played without scoring leader CJ Carter because of a hamstring injury, but Marcus Tyus and Justin Simmons, starting together for the first time this season, paced the Mavericks’ perimeter play in an 88-66 victory over IUPUI. The Mavs snapped a season-high four-game losing streak Thursday night before 983 at Ralston Arena.
“We’re used to playing with one another, so it’s really not a big deal,” Tyus said.
Tyus and Simmons have shared one starting spot in a Mav lineup that has otherwise been constant all season. But Carter, averaging 13.7 points, was injured last Saturday against Denver and couldn’t heal quickly enough to play. He watched the game in street clothes.
“CJ has a definite chance to play Saturday,” UNO coach Derrin Hansen said. “He’s made some really good strides, and I saw him do some things at shootaround (earlier Thursday) that I didn’t think he could get to this quickly.”
UNO (16-13, 5-8 Summit League) plays Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne on Saturday in its regular-season finale.
The Mavs guaranteed themselves a winning record in their third season of transition to Division I, and kept alive their hopes of being selected to play in a postseason tournament.
“Great team win,” Hansen said. “We needed it. The guys really bonded together. And hopefully now we’ll have some momentum.”
Senior center John Karhoff didn’t practice until Thursday’s shootaround after a knee-on-knee collision during the Denver game, but was still available for 22 minutes. UNO had only nine players, and used an eight-man rotation.
“We definitely had some different lineups in there than what we’ve had,” Hansen said.
With the new starting unit, UNO started well. The Mavs jumped to a 25-11 lead behind seven points from Mike Rostampour and a pair of 3-pointers by Alex Phillips. The lead was still 35-23 before the Jaguars ended the half with an 11-0 run that made it 35-34.
“Didn’t turn it over, made shots, set our defense,” IUPUI coach Todd Howard said.
IUPUI took its first lead on the opening possession of the second half as Khufu Najee hit a jumper, and also took two more one-point leads, with the last coming on a jumper by Marcellus Barksdale that made it 40-39.
But then the Mavs took control with 17 straight points, with five each coming from Karhoff and Tyus.
The 3½-minute burst coincided with a Mav rarity — the switch to a zone defense.
“It kind of kept them out of the paint, kept them away from all their back-door dive stuff,” Hansen said. “We contested some shots, and when we got our guards back in to rebound we were able to go the other direction.”
The run eventually reached 23-3 on a dunk by Matt Hagerbaumer that made it 62-43. IUPUI got no closer than 14 the rest of the way, and UNO led by as many as 27.
“We kind of played sluggish (late in the first half) and they started coming back,” said Tyus, a sophomore. “At halftime we just said, ‘We’ve got to pick it up. We can’t play like this.’ ”
Rostampour led UNO with 18 points and nine rebounds, while Tyus scored 17, Simmons had 15 and Karhoff added 13. The Mavs shot 62.5 percent from the field in the second half and 52.2 percent overall. The Mavs forced 21 turnovers, including 13 steals, and had a 34-12 advantage in points off turnovers.
Ian Chiles scored 15 of his 20 points in the first half for IUPUI (6-24, 1-12). The Jaguars’ leading scorer at 15.2 per game, he was playing his second game after missing the previous five with a hand injury.
Simmons, one of UNO’s five seniors, averages 10.1 points and Tyus 8.9 for a UNO team that has six players averaging 8.9 or more.
The Mavs are still shooting for a spot in one of the two postseason tournaments for which they are eligible — the College Basketball Invitational or the College Insider.com Tournament.
A win Saturday against IPFW, 21-9 overall and third in the Summit at 9-5, would strengthen the Mavs’ case.
“Hopefully we get the call,” Tyus said. “We’ve played so hard all season, and that’s what we’ve been working up to. We know we can’t get into the (NCAA or NIT) tournament, but for the seniors, this is their only chance. We’re just trying to do it for them.”