MEN'S BASKETBALL: DENVER AT UNO
1 p.m. Saturday • Baxter Arena 1180 AM KZOT
UNO won its first meeting with Denver by stepping away from what it does best.
The Mavericks, whose run and-gun style has made them one of the highest-scoring teams in the country, decided not to try to speed up the deliberate Princeton offense run by the Pioneers. Instead, they focused on shutting down Denver in the half-court and then beating it in transition the other way.
The result was a 69-55 UNO victory — its first ever at Denver — in which it led the entire night.
When the Mavs (15-9) host the Pioneers (12-11) in a rematch Saturday at Baxter Arena, they hope to duplicate their disciplined performance from last month, although they know it won't be easy.
"We've just got to keep doing the same exact thing we did last time," UNO senior forward Jake White said. "With their Princeton offense, it's very unique. They like to do a lot of backdoors. One of the keys is we focused on not getting backdoored. We watched film, and we didn't get backdoored once last game. I think that really helped us, and we're looking to do that again.
"It takes a lot of mental discipline. The Princeton offense really exposes what you are taught from when you were a kid from a defensive standpoint — like you want to deny the ball out to the 3-point line, but you can't do that because they're going to backdoor you and throw it every time for a layup. As long as we're disciplined and honed in, we're going to do well."
The Mavs were certainly that way in Denver, when they won going away despite scoring more than 15 points less than their season average. They limited the Pioneers to 55 points and dominated in the paint, outscoring Denver 40-20 from inside. White had a career-high 29 points and nine rebounds.
UNO coach Derrin Hansen said his team had some things go its way in the first meeting and is hoping that will be the case again Saturday. The Mavs are looking to bounce back from a disappointing loss at Western Illinois on Wednesday, a defeat that knocked them out of a first-place tie in the Summit League. The Pioneers, meanwhile, bested one of the league's co-leaders, IUPUI, in a home game on Thursday.
"They're coming off a good win beating IUPUI at home (Thursday)," Hansen said. "It wasn't very high-scoring. They didn't shoot it particularly well, but they found a way to win. That says a lot about a team."
Denver sits alone in sixth place entering the weekend, three games behind the Mavs in the standings. UNO is a game out of first after losing to the Leathernecks, who were 0-9 in the league before the win.
Hansen said his team got off to a good start in that game, but didn't handle itself well with the lead.
"We hope we play with a little more energy, a little more passion and a little more locked in on Saturday than we did Wednesday," he said. "We'll have to play well to do it. There's nothing easy in this league."
White agreed, saying the midweek hiccups by a pair of league co-leaders served as a reminder.
"The Summit League is one of the best in the country," he said. "No game is ever guaranteed in this league. We have a tough conference. We're going to, hopefully, stick to our game plan and get a victory.
"We were very disappointed in our effort our last game. We really needed that one."