PULLMAN, Wash. — A big comeback gave UNO its biggest win of the season.

Down 15 early in the second half, the Mavericks controlled the final 17 minutes en route to an 85-77 win at Washington State on Thursday night. UNO had been 0-6 against Pac-12 opponents.

The Cougars led 53-38 before the Mavs rallied. UNO shot 53.6% from the field in the second half, when it outscored Washington State 50-29.

“When we played bigger schools like Colorado State and Dayton earlier this season, they would make a run at us and we could never weather the storm, but today we did that,” UNO coach Derrin Hansen said in a press release. “We showed that when someone makes a run at us, we can now do the right thing and make a run back at them.”

UNO (3-3) went on a 28-10 surge over a nine-minute span that turned a 59-51 deficit into a 79-69 lead with 1:31 to play.

“I think we lost focus,” Washington State coach Kyle Smith said. “They have good guards and they were relentless about attacking, and we were terrible all night about defensive transitions.”

KJ Robinson scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half. JT Gibson (18), Ayo Akinwole (14) and Zach Thornhill (11) also were in double figures for the Mavs.

Matt Pile grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds as UNO finished with a 41-38 edge on the glass.

And thanks to Robinson, UNO’s bench outscored the Cougars 29-3.

“Our two seniors tonight were really good, especially late, as they made big shots and controlled the basketball,” Hansen said of Robinson and Gibson.

UNO led most of the first half, but the Cougars took momentum into the locker room with a 24-8 run before the break.

Isaac Bonton scored 10 of his 18 points during that span, including a pair of 3-pointers, and CJ Elleby scored eight of his game-high 27.

The lead grew to 53-38 before UNO turned the game around.

Back-to-back 3s by Akinwole and Robinson cut the deficit to single digits. Robinson later went on a personal 7-0 run, making four free throws and a 3 to put the Mavs in front for good at 67-65 with 5:49 left.

A Gibson 3 at the 2:34 mark made it 77-69 and Robinson’s layup a minute later put the Mavs up 10.

Washington State closed to 79-72 with 49 seconds left, but UNO hit all six of its free throws after that to secure the win.

“I’m very proud of our team to win one on the back end of a trip, which is always difficult,” said Hansen, whose team lost at Dayton on Tuesday. “Hopefully, this is one we can build off of as we continue.”

UNO will play Southern at Baxter Arena on Monday.


Meet the 2019-20 UNO men's basketball team

Get the headlines from Creighton, Nebraska, UNO, high schools and other area teams.

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Commenting is limited to Omaha World-Herald subscribers. To sign up, click here.

If you're already a subscriber and need to activate your access or log in, click here.

Recommended for you

Load comments

You must be a full digital subscriber to read this article You must be a digital subscriber to view this article.