Nothing like a run of 11 to negative-one to turn a game around.
UNO picked up the best of its seven victories this season on Tuesday night, beating Cal State Bakersfield 93-88 before 1,024 at Ralston Arena.
And the Mavericks, who led by 18 points with six minutes to play before hanging on to win, got a midgame jump-start to get there.
Bakersfield led 40-35 before the Mavs reclaimed the momentum with that 12-point swing that included scoring the final 11 points of the half and then seeing a point taken away from Bakersfield after a halftime video review changed what had originally been ruled a 3-pointer to a 2.
“That’s a swing that, when you’re on the road, you don’t want to give up,” CSUB coach Rod Barnes said. “When you’re at home your fans can help push you, but on the road to have something like that turn the corner on you is tough.”
Maverick brute Mike Rostampour started the turnaround by outmuscling Erik Kinney for an offensive rebound basket, one of his seven first-half boards. Then Rostampour was fouled by Aly Ahmed, who was also called for a “contact” technical foul after a long video review.
“It was deflating,” Barnes said. “But we could have come back early in the second half and played better, and we didn’t.”
After Rostampour (1 of 2 on the foul) and John Karhoff (2 for 2 for the technical) combined to make 3 of 4 free throws to tie the game 40-40, Caleb Steffensmeier hit a 3 to put UNO up 43-40 and CJ Carter added another 3 after shaking free with a crossover dribble. Bakersfield then fell seven behind at half when the scoring reversal made it, officially, 46-39.
“That was a big stretch for us,” said Carter, who led UNO with 20 points and four assists. “We were kind of down, weren’t hitting shots at first. But we got that run going, and it got us going.”
UNO opened the second half with four straight points to cap a 15-0 run (or a 16-point swing, if you prefer). The Mavs led by at least 10 points from the 17:44 mark until the final two minutes, stretching it as high as 18 with just over six minutes to go.
But things got a little scary.
The Mavs — the country’s sixth-best free-throw shooting team at 79.2 percent — went 6 of 14 at the line in the final 2:45. Meanwhile the Roadrunners connected on three 3-pointers — two of them by Matt Ratto — in a span of 52 seconds to get within 90-86 with 1:01 left. A layup by Brandon Barnes, the coach’s son, made it 91-88 with 26 seconds to go.
“You have to feel good about it,” said Karhoff, who scored 18 points while making all 10 of his free throws. “That’s a good team, and you’ve got to give them credit for coming back the way they did. Even when we were up, we knew they were still capable.”
UNO’s Alex Phillips was fouled with 9.2 seconds left, and the senior missed the first. After a timeout by Bakersfield, Phillips made the second for a four-point lead. Javonte Maynor missed a 3, and a Devin Patterson free throw with 0.4 left ended it.
Strong free throw shooting is important in close games, UNO coach Derrin Hansen said.
“A.P. did make a big one, but we had a lot of 1 for 2s,” Hansen said. “If we knock down some free throws, it’s probably double digits (victory margin), but it wasn’t and that’s what you get.”
Still, the Mavs improved to 7-3 and managed to beat a solid CSUB program they had gone 0-3 against in UNO’s first two seasons in Division I. The Roadrunners, who played without quality guard Zach Lamb and starting center Zech Smith (both have ankle injuries) are picked to finish third in the Western Athletic Conference.
Issiah Grayson had 29 points and seven assists to lead the Roadrunners (5-5) in a fun-to-watch matchup of ultra-quick point guards against UNO’s Patterson. Grayson led a comeback from an early 10-point deficit and really got into a groove after Patterson sat the final 7:24 of the first half after picking up his second foul.
“We’re happy about it,” Hansen said. “Bakersfield is a good team. They’ve beaten some good teams, and they’ve only been beaten by good teams.”