Tuesday night’s UNO game with Cal State Bakersfield offers some potential to measure the Mavericks’ progress.
UNO has never beaten the Roadrunners in three matchups since moving to Division I. And both teams have a fair percentage of their rosters returning.
“It might be a chance to see that,” UNO coach Derrin Hansen said, when asked if the 7:07 p.m. game at Ralston Arena was a potential measuring stick game. “But I also think this is Bakersfield’s best team that we’ve played. They’re really talented. It’ll be a good game if we hold up our end of the bargain.”
Cal State Bakersfield, picked to finish third in the Western Athletic Conference, has lost three straight games (to Fresno State in overtime, to Drake and to Santa Clara) to drop to 5-4. Both UNO and the Roadrunners lost to Drake by eight points — Drake played UNO at home and CSU at a neutral site.
CSU, led by former national coach of the year (2001, at Mississippi) Rod Barnes, has several players who have tortured UNO in prior meetings.
Guard Zach Lamb averaged 22.0 points (including 27 in the first meeting between the teams) during a home-and-home series in February 2012. Point guard Issiah Grayson had 11 assists in the second meeting. In last year’s game in Bakersfield, guard Javonte Maynor had 17 points and guard Brandon Barnes — the coach’s son — had 16.
The Roadrunners won the games 75-65, 84-63 and 84-79.
“Their guards are really good,” Hansen said. “They’re competitive and they keep coming at you. That poses some problems. And then those same guys can shoot it in, too.”
Lamb, the brother of Oklahoma City Thunder guard and former UConn star Jeremy Lamb, sat out last year with an injury and also missed Thursday’s loss to Santa Clara. Grayson also sat out with an injury last season.
Besides Lamb, another Roadrunner has NBA connections — backup Tyrell Corbin is the son of longtime NBA forward and current Utah Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin.
The Roadrunners have 12 players averaging at least 3.7 points per game, including 10 averaging at least 5.1.
That group includes sophomore center Aly Ahmed, 6-foot-9 and 270 pounds, who made his season debut Thursday and had six points, three rebounds and four blocked shots in 12 minutes.
“They’ve got a little bit of everything,” Hansen said.
Despite their record, which includes Division I wins over Nevada, Northern Arizona, Idaho State and Sacramento State, the Roadrunners’ RPI through Monday afternoon was only No. 245. UNO was at No. 173, second best in the Summit League.
UNO (6-3) is coming off a week that included two easy wins over outclassed small-school opponents and then a scheduled game that was postponed because of icy conditions at Central Arkansas.
“We got to play a lot of guys and do some different things defensively,” Hansen said. “And we had been traveling a lot so we were able to get our legs back under us. But then we had a game postponed and we had to switch gears from game prep to dropping everything and having normal practice. It was a shock to the system.
“Mentally I thought we handled it OK, but probably not great. We had gotten into a bit of a rhythm and that threw us off. We’ll see if we’re strong enough to get back where we were.”