FARGO, N.D. — UNO kept its Summit League title hopes alive by grinding out a tough win on Saturday. But the Mavericks are still a half-game out of the conference lead entering the final week of the season.
Minutes after UNO (18-9) finished off a rugged 58-50 win over North Dakota State (14-14) at the Scheels Center, South Dakota State recorded a 94-89 come-from-behind home victory over rival South Dakota.
The Jackrabbits, who trailed by 16 before rallying to stay in the league lead, are 13-2 with one home game remaining. The Mavs have a 12-2 Summit mark with two road games to play.
UNO’s sixth consecutive win didn’t come easily. The Mavs trailed by double digits for most of the day.
UNO scored a season-low 20 points in the first half and went to the locker room down by eight. The Mavs connected on only 1 of 11 3-point attempts and shot 28 percent before the intermission.
“Give North Dakota State credit,” UNO coach Derrin Hansen said on his postgame radio show. “They muddied it up. They went late shot clock. And then we weren’t good guarding the ball late shot clock.
“We have tough plays in the lane that we can make. We don’t. We have good looks, (but go) 1 for 11.”
Vinnie Shahid hit three 3s in the first half for the Bison, who built a double-digit lead before the 10-minute mark. NDSU outscored UNO 13-2 over one stretch while surging ahead, and then went cold.
The Bison went scoreless for nearly six minutes late in the half, but UNO failed to capitalize as it scored only three points during that stretch. Baskets by KJ Robinson and Matt Pile got the Mavs within 28-20.
A 3-pointer by Gretna graduate Jared Samuelson to open the second half extended NDSU’s lead back to 11. The Mavs chipped away until taking their first lead since 2-0 on a Robinson 3 with 5:44 to play.
Shahid answered for the Bison, but Zach Jackson put UNO in front to stay with a 3 with 4:19 to go. It remained 49-48 until Mitch Hahn canned a 3, his only field goal of the game, with 1:44 left.
The fourth-place Bison, who lost their second straight after five wins in a row, didn’t threaten after that. Saturday’s defeat was just their third of the year at home. It was the only one not decided at the buzzer.
North Dakota State went without a field goal for the final 5:23 while falling to 8-6 in the conference.
Jackson finished with 16 points to lead all scorers. Robinson had 11 of his 15 in the second half. And Pile finished with a double-double (12 points, 13 rebounds) that included a one-handed dunk off a Hahn save.
UNO can pull even with South Dakota State, which is off until next Saturday, with a win at Oral Roberts on Thursday. The Mavs finish the season at Denver next Saturday. SDSU hosts Western Illinois that day.
Hansen said pulling out the game against the Bison was the latest instance of his team finding a way.
“We’ve come back and won,” he said. “We have given up leads and won. We’ve won high-scoring games. We just won one that turned basketball back 50 or 60 years. ... We have the ability to win different ways. And I think that’s good as we move on down the stretch here in the last two and the tournament.”
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