Worried that UNO has just one day to prepare for the Summit League's best team, North Dakota State?
No problem, Maverick coach Derrin Hansen said.
“Not to sound crazy, but North Dakota State isn't a difficult prep,” Hansen said.
But that's also what makes the Bison (19-6, 8-2 Summit) so tough to beat. Just because you know what they're going to do, it doesn't mean you can stop it.
“They're going to throw it inside to (Marshall) Bjorklund and he's going to make a play if you stay one-on-one,” Hansen said. “If you go and double him, he's going to make a decision to get it to (Taylor) Braun and he'll make a play or kick it to another shooter or driver.
“They know what they do, and they do it very well. But it's not like we're going to have to prep for anything fancy.”
The 6-foot-8 Bjorklund, who averages 13.8 points per game, is NCAA Division I's active career field-goal percentage leader and ranks second this season at .637 with his surprisingly nimble assortment of post moves. Braun is the Summit's preseason player of the year and averages 18.1 points.
Sprinkled around them are the highly athletic, 6-7 TrayVonn Wright, one of the league's best point guards in Lawrence Alexander, a solid 6-4 guard in Kory Brown and backup sharpshooter Mike Felt.
“They're going to do what they do,” Hansen said. “We're going to have to be tougher, rebound better and keep it out of the paint.”
While North Dakota State — which ranks second in the country in field-goal percentage (.505) and 14th in fewest turnovers per game (10.1) — was winning 56-52 Thursday night at Western Illinois, UNO had problems inside in its 77-60 home loss to South Dakota State.
The Mavs (15-10, 4-5) had a season low in points, shot a season-low 31.7 percent from the field, were outrebounded by a season-worst 21, gave up a season-worst 17 offensive rebounds and were outscored 48-16 in the paint and 21-6 on second-chance points.
“We got beat on toughness,” forward Mike Rostampour said. “And that's what happens.”
UNO lamented its lack of defensive energy in a big home game against a team it had beaten on the road.
“When we're flying around, that opens up so much stuff for us,” center John Karhoff said. “We need to do a better job of that. That gets us going, when we're flying around and making it hard for people. We just didn't do a good job at a lot of things.”
North Dakota State, ranked fifth in the mid-major poll, doesn't offer much relief. But UNO vows to find some of the energy that was missing Thursday.
“We've got the No. 1 team (in the Summit) coming in, and I believe it's going to be a bar fight,” Rostampour said. “They're a great team with good coaches. But we don't get a chance to go to the (NCAA) tournament, and they look like a tournament team to me. So that's our chance. That's our tournament game. And you can bet we're going to be playing as hard as we possibly can.”