UNO settled one score in its last game, beating a Cal State Bakersfield program it hadn’t conquered in three previous tries since moving to Division I.
The Mavericks get another shot Saturday, making a second trip to Nevada in three seasons for a 5:05 p.m. game against the Wolf Pack. Two years ago, UNO’s first in Division I, the Mavs lost 81-69 at Lawlor Events Center to a Nevada team that went 28-7 and reached the NIT quarterfinals.
During a difficult first Division I season, UNO trailed the Wolf Pack by four points at halftime and cut its deficit to two with 14:20 left.
“We’re definitely bringing in a more experienced team than the team we brought in two years ago,” coach Derrin Hansen said. “But I have to give our team two years ago some credit, because that game might have been the best collective effort — the best combination of energy and efficiency — that we had all season.”
This year, if early trends are accurate, the Mavs once again have a fighting chance against their Mountain West Conference opponents.
UNO (7-3), which has lost only on the road against Iowa (83-75), UNLV (73-70) and Drake (88-80), is ranked No. 150 in realtimerpi.com. Nevada, which dropped off last season and finished 12-19 overall and 3-13 in its first MWC season, is No. 152.
Nevada (4-6) has lost to UCLA, Missouri and California, while also falling 80-78 to Pacific, 63-58 to Morehead State, and 74-66 at Cal State Bakersfield.
Bakersfield’s win against the Wolf Pack came with center Zech Smith playing 19 minutes and explosive guard Zach Lamb playing one. Neither Smith nor Lamb played at all against UNO in the Mavs’ 93-88 win Tuesday. The Mavs led by 18 with less than six minutes to go before holding on.
UNO point guard Devin Patterson was limited by first-half foul trouble in that game, which featured an exciting matchup of quick guards between Patterson and CSUB’s Issiah Grayson.
When Patterson was on the floor, CSUB coach Rod Barnes said, it was the difference in the first three meetings between the programs.
“Early on, I though Patterson got the best of the matchup,” Barnes said. “He got his team out of the gates. … I think he’s the difference in their team, especially against us, because they’ve got someone now who can handle our pressure. The last three meetings I thought we caused them so many problems at the point guard position, and he negated all that.”
Patterson, a 5-11 sophomore from New Mexico Junior College, is 50th nationally in steal percentage and 56th in fouls drawn (per 40 minutes), according to kenpom.com. He averages 12.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.0 steals.
“Devin makes our team better,” Hansen said. “There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it.”
But Patterson will have a different kind of matchup Saturday against Nevada’s Deonte Burton, who is projected as a second-round NBA draft pick. Burton is among the leading scorers in the country at 23.2 points per game, and also averages 3.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists.
“The size matchup is different, and that might pose problems,” Hansen said. “But Devin has handled himself well every game to this point, and we don’t expect that to change.”
Matchup problems go beyond Patterson vs. Burton. Nevada starts a pair of 6-8 forwards, including Jerry Evans — who is, technically, listed as a guard.
“They have Jerry Evans at the 3, and we have Marcus Tyus (6-1) or ‘Socks’ (Justin Simmons) at 6-3,” Hansen said. “We’re going to have matchup issues at some spots.”
Hansen said UNO is considering playing some zone rather than its preferred man-to-man.
“We’re going to have our hands full,” Hansen said. “We have to play well to have a chance.”