Even though CJ Carter was scoring basket after basket early in UNO’s victory over Missouri-Kansas City, he may not have been the most dominant player on the floor.
A good argument could be made that it was his backcourt mate, 5-foot-11 sophomore Devin Patterson, who was controlling the game.
“He didn’t do a great job of scoring, but he was key for them,” UMKC coach Kareem Richardson said. “Eight assists. He got those guys a lot of easy looks.
“Even though he is a jet-quick guard, it’s slow motion for him once he gets in the paint. He finds guys.”
Patterson certainly held his own in Sunday’s loss to Iowa, and he gets another chance to see where he stacks up against a high-caliber program Friday, when UNO (2-1) travels to UNLV for a 9 p.m. game at the Thomas & Mack Center.
The early reviews indicate that the Portsmouth, Va., native, who transferred from New Mexico Junior College with three seasons of eligibility remaining, is one of the quickest Mavs in recent memory, particularly when the ball is in his hands.
“It changes us a lot,” said Carter, who slid over to the off-guard position to make room for Patterson at the point. “Just the pressure he puts on the defense, he’s pushing it every chance he gets.”
Through three games, Patterson is averaging 10 points, 3.7 assists and 2.7 steals. He had nine points, eight assists and four steals against UMKC. Patterson came on late last season in junior college, finishing with a modest 5.8 scoring average.
Now, though, he’s making a major early-season impact for a UNO team hoping to be more competitive in its early-season guarantee games than last year.
UNO is getting $95,000 to play UNLV (1-1), which is coming off a Tuesday home loss to an experienced UC Santa Barbara team.
The Mavs cashed in $85,000 and added a bunch of confidence while playing Iowa close on Sunday, leading for most of the game in an 83-75 defeat.
“There’s no doubt that’s going to help us,” UNO coach Derrin Hansen said. “If you get beat by 40 you think, ‘Well, here comes another one.’ We’re not going to expect to go in there and lay down. We’re expecting to go in and compete and see what happens.
“That’s what I like about this team. Long way to go. Like where we’re at now. But we have a high ceiling that I think we can still improve and get to.”
There’s a good chance Patterson will be pushing UNO as far as it gets.
Not only is he able to control the game offensively — UMKC couldn’t pressure him and couldn’t stop his penetration in the half-court — he’s also a major factor defensively.
Hansen said having a point guard defend like Patterson does on the perimeter is similar to having a shutdown defensive player in the low post. In either scenario, all of the other players on the floor can worry more about their jobs and less about helping.
“Now we have more bodies in the back, and the quickness on the head of the defense has really helped us out,” Hansen said.