Building off bad beginnings

Jake White says UNO, tied for first in the Summit, isn’t playing its best yet. “Just knowing that, I think we’re going to be an absolutely great team when we just figure it out.”

UNO’s penchant for falling behind early in games finally cost the team last weekend.

Sure, the Mavericks (12-7) rallied to take a short-lived lead and force overtime against IPFW Saturday at Baxter Arena. But they trailed by 19 in the first half and expended a lot of energy to get back to even, eventually losing their first Summit game of the season 106-101.

“It was definitely tough,” senior Kyler Erickson said. “The thing we have to fix most is the first half of every game we’re down 19 or 20. After the game, that’s what we preached. We’ve got to come out harder.”

Saturday was the third time in five conference games that UNO has had to overcome a double-digit deficit. The Mavs know that’s not a formula for success on Thursday when they face Denver and its Princeton offense in the first of three straight road contests.

“It’s a really tough ask,” coach Derrin Hansen said. “When you’re down 10 or 11 to them, it’s like 25 to 30. They can make life hard on you. They can bleed the heck out of the clock. You can try to speed them up. They’re a tough team and a tough offense to speed up because they’re good at what they do.”

The Pioneers (10-9, 2-4 Summit) traditionally have given the Mavs trouble. Denver has won five of its six all-time meetings with UNO and has never lost on its home court in the short history of the series.

Senior forward Jake White feels this Mavs team, tied for the Summit lead at 4-1, can change that.

“They’re a very different team,” he said. “We have not faced up against a Princeton offense so far this year. It’ll be a challenge, but I really like the game plan that the coaches put together. I think we’ll be able to do just fine at it.

“We need to really just work on playing hard from the get-go. A lot of our troubles have been from not showing up in the first half. And we’ve been able to get away with it for a while. But last game it really hurt us. We dug ourselves a pretty big hole. We’ve just got to work on coming out strong, and then I like our chances.”

Hansen said UNO shook off its first conference defeat, which ended a six-game winning streak, and quickly got back to work for this week’s road games at Denver and Oral Roberts. The Mavs will follow those trips by traveling to Summit League preseason favorite South Dakota State next Thursday.

It’s a critical stretch for the Mavs because, after it’s over, the schedule begins to lean in their favor. Five of UNO’s last eight conference games will take place at Baxter Arena.

“We’ve had a really great start with league play right now,” White said. “I’m excited about where we’re standing in these next upcoming games. The great thing is we haven’t even played our best basketball yet. Just knowing that, I think we’re going to be an absolutely great team when we just figure it out.”

The Mavs enter Thursday’s matchup having won their last four games away from Omaha.

“I have to give our guys credit,” Hansen said. “We have played well on the road, and we hope that continues.”

Erickson doesn’t foresee that being a problem.

“Traditionally, you want to split on the road,” he said, “but I think our attitude this weekend is we’re going to go and get two games. We’re going to knock those two teams out. That’s who we are, and that’s what we do. We’re looking at a good Denver team and a good Oral Roberts team, but we’ll be ready to go.”

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