Men’s basketball falls to Nebraska Omaha

By Brian Thomas

Despite scoring a season-high in points, NIU men’s basketball fell to Nebraska Omaha at home Saturday, 77-72.

The Huskies (0-7) lost their seventh game in a row.

NIU once again started the game playing from behind and got off to a slow start, a reoccurring theme this season.

“What we have to do is get better at the first five minutes of the first half and the first five minutes of the second half,” said NIU coach Mark Montgomery. “We can’t always play from behind. It would be good to come out of the locker room and get off and going.”

The Mavericks came out of the gates on a 13-4 run, led by senior Mitch Albers’ two three-pointers.

“The one thing I thought that is important for our basketball team is quick starts,” said Nebraska Omaha coach Derrin Hansen. “We lost a lot of senior leadership last year, so we are a young basketball team right now. So quick starts help us a little bit.”

At the 13:31 mark, Albers scored on a layup to stretch the Mavericks lead to 13, their largest of the game.

The Huskies would continue to battle back and with the score 27-17 with 8:04 left, they went on an 11-0 run to take the lead, 28-27, on a two point basket by Toler with 5:11 left in the half.

The lead would go back and forth over the next three minutes of play. With 3:15 left in the half, Albers hit a three-pointer to give the Mavericks the lead. A minute later, Albers connected on another three-pointer to increase their lead to 38-33.

Toler would score on a layup and freshman Marquavese Ford added two free throws to put the Huskies down 38-37 going into the half.

“To be honest, we kind of let down a little bit,” Albers said. “I think we had that thing up to about 10 points, a couple different times 12 points. Then we kind of let them back in it and then we had to claw to get the lead back. We were thankful to have the lead at the half.”

Ford started the second half with a three-point play, converting on the free throw, to give the Huskies the lead, 40-38.

Nebraska Omaha’s CJ Carter would split a pair of free throws and then 30 seconds later make a layup to give the Mavericks the lead, 41-40.

After a two-point basket by Mavericks’ junior Alex Welhouse, Ford would tie the game at 43 with 17:03 to play in the half. Sophomore Caleb Steffensmeier would hit two free throws for UNO, giving it the lead for good.

NIU’s best chance to tie it was at the 1:03 mark after a timeout, when junior Tony Nixon got a good look at a three-pointer, but couldn’t connect.

Toler finished the game with a career-high 25 points while Albers finished with 26 points.

“All the credit goes to my teammates,” Toler said. “They were finding me in open spots and thank God I was knocking them down tonight.”