Published Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 12:01 am / Updated at 12:49 am
Mavs in the zone on defense to fuel win

Excuse UNO for shooting just 38.1 percent.

The Mavericks were busy with other things leading up to Thursday night’s 66-48 Summit League victory over North Dakota State.

“We practiced for four or five hours (since Saturday’s loss to Western Illinois) — no offense at all,” senior guard Ericka House said. “None of us got to shoot. I’m not sure how we made our shots.”

The Mavs’ matchup zone held North Dakota State to 29.2 percent shooting and forced 19 turnovers — 14 of them on steals — against a team that was 12th in the country in averaging just 12.4 turnovers per game.

During a 14-2 first-half run covering just less than 10 minutes — in which UNO seized control of the game and took a 27-17 lead — the Bison went 1 for 11 from the field with 10 turnovers.

“We had to go back to the basics,” UNO coach Brittany Lange said. “And I was really proud of them. They were accountable. It can get ugly sometimes, but they guarded every possession, and that’s all I wanted to accomplish this week — and they bought in. If you guard, more times than not the outcome is going to be good.”

House led UNO with 23 points and added a career-high five steals before 417 at Sapp Fieldhouse. Mikaela Shaw had 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Taijhe Kelly had 11 rebounds and four blocked shots for the Mavs (9-7, 1-1 Summit), who snapped a two-game losing streak in which they had been beaten at home by 20 (Wisconsin-Milwaukee) and 22 points (Western Illinois).

North Dakota State (3-14, 0-3) lost its 10th straight while posting a season low in field-goal percentage and matching a season-high in turnovers. Leading scorer Brooke LeMar was shut out until the final four minutes, and finished with two points.

“You credit Omaha for the defense they run, because you don’t see it very often,” Bison coach Carolyn DeHoff said. “It took our kids some time to adjust. I thought we got some good looks against it, got the right looks.”

After taking a 31-22 halftime lead, UNO opened the second half by missing its first eight shots — though it grabbed six offensive rebounds, made four free throws and forced three turnovers in that span to keep the lead at nine points. Lange called timeout to get her young team settled down.

“It’s the second conference game for almost all of them,” she said. “They want it really badly, but they’re learning it firsthand instead of watching another (veteran) group go through it first. They’re relentless. At times it can be ugly. But they fought through and guarded on the other end.”

House came out and scored the next five points, but NDSU responded with an 11-0 run to get back within 40-37 with 11:41 to go. The Mavs eventually rebuilt the lead to 14 at 53-39. One final Bison charge made it 53-46 with 6:14 left, but UNO was able to pull away.

“We just stuck to our principles,” House said of the Mavs’ defensive improvement. “Some of us had been in the wrong spots, or we didn’t help each other, didn’t trust each other. We had to iron out a couple of kinks.”

UNO missed a handful of layups that might have made the second half a little more relaxing.

“Maybe they were surprised they were so open on a couple of them,” Lange said. “But we got the right shots.”

Contact the writer: Rob White    |   402-444-1027    |  

Rob White covers University of Nebraska at Omaha sports and the Omaha Storm Chasers.

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