After a promising start, Sunday turned into a long afternoon for the UNO women's basketball team.
The Mavericks jumped to a 21-10 lead against Wisconsin-Milwaukee, but they scored just 27 points in the final 27 minutes and committed a season-high 23 turnovers in a 68-48 loss in front of 498 at Sapp Fieldhouse.
“Young team, it's not excusable, but there's a learning process through the season,” UNO coach Brittany Lange said after a 20-minute postgame meeting with her players. “The only thing we keep talking to them about is what they'll be judged on this year is how they perform and the way they play the game.
“They're going to have tough points, but it's not about the score — it's about competing for 40 minutes. It's staying together and playing the way we're supposed to play.”
UNO players met without the coaches for another 15 minutes, and a postgame player interview request through UNO sports information was declined.
The Mavs shot 29.7 percent (11 for 37) from the field after the momentum turned. Meanwhile, Wisconsin-Milwaukee rebounded from a 4 for 24 start to shoot 54.3 percent (19 for 35) the rest of the way.
“We've been working a lot this week on trying to get the ball in the paint, then out,” Panthers coach Kyle Rechlicz said. “I thought we were forcing it a little bit at the start of the game, and we just needed a couple of media timeouts to really get them to understand to take the shots that are available to you, but to also really work on going inside-outside.”
Sharpshooter Angela Rodriguez led the Panthers with 19 points, while Ashley Green added 15 points, six rebounds, seven assists and five steals, and Avyanna Young had 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Ericka House led UNO with 18 points — she opened the game 4 for 4 for 10 points in the Mavs' early burst. Rechlicz compared House to Wright State's Kim Demmings, the Horizon League's preseason player of the year, in the scouting report with her team.
“(House) is an unbelievable player, and I talked a lot pregame about how she was going to be the one we had to shut down,” Rechlicz said. “She started off so hot. I got a little worried there.”
Wisconsin-Milwaukee (4-9), picked to finish in the middle of the pack in the Horizon, is 2-1 against Summit League teams. The Panthers beat a UNO team picked to finish seventh in addition to a 12-point win against a North Dakota State team picked last in the eight-team league.
Western Illinois, picked to finish sixth, beat the Panthers by 13. The Mavs (8-6) open Summit play Saturday at home against Western Illinois.
“This is a really big win for us,” Rechlicz said. “I think Omaha is a great team, and I think they'll do great in their league.”
Taijhe Kelly, UNO's 6-foot-4 center, added nine points, 11 rebounds and five blocked shots.
After the strong start, the Mavs began having trouble scoring on offense and even more trouble stopping the Panthers defensively — which curtailed the success the Mavs were having in transition early.
“We finally started getting stops, started locking in and getting stops,” Rechlicz said. “They started off so hot. But we started helping up into the gaps and forced them into some turnovers that they're not used to having. I felt like our players locked into our game plan defensively.”
The Panthers led briefly at 30-29 before settling for a 30-30 halftime tie, then built the lead to 37-30 early in the second half. UNO got as close as four points twice after that, but a 9-0 run made it 53-41 with 6:44 left and Wisconsin- Milwaukee never looked back.
“I felt like we had an incredible amount of energy — across the board, from our bench to the players on the floor,” Rechlicz said. “I think we willed ourselves to a win.”
The Mavs shot 27.6 percent (8 of 29) from the field in the second half while committing 14 turnovers. They had a school record of just four turnovers two games ago, in a win over Austin Peay.
“They played off us quite a bit and we just didn't get organized the second half,” Lange said. “Sharing the ball, taking care of the ball, something we've been known for the first half of the season … we didn't play the way we normally do.”