A sharp-shooting Omaha men’s basketball team captured its third consecutive conference win Thursday night, defeating Fort Wayne, 86-79, at Ralston Arena. With the victory, the Mavericks improve to 8-16 (5-6 Summit League) on the season, while the Mastodons drop to 10-14 (3-7 Summit League).
UNO posted its highest field goal shooting percentage of the season, finishing at a .627 clip. The Mavs have shot .500 or better in six of their last eight games dating back to Jan. 3 and have shot a combined .535 in that span.
Four Mavericks finished with double-figure scoring, led by 23 points from junior guard Justin Simmons, 22 of which came in an outstanding second-half effort. Simmons added four rebounds, two assists and a steal.
Freshman guard Marcus Tyus joined Simmons with a season-high 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting, besting his previous mark of 20, which was set against IPFW on Jan. 5. Twelve points from junior center John Karhoff, who shot 6-for-8, and 11 points from junior guard Alex Phillips, rounded out the performance. Karhoff also grabbed three boards with two assists and two blocks, while Phillips had four rebounds and a steal to his credit.
Sophomore guard CJ Carter finished with seven points, a career-high-tying eight rebounds, six assists and a steal. Senior forward Alex Welhouse added seven points, and junior guard Caleb Steffensmeier chipped in three rebounds, two points and a pair of assists.
UNO’s .627 shooting bested Fort Wayne’s .422 (27-of-64) from the floor. The Mavericks finished .500 (6-of-12) from long range, while the Mastodons came in at .316 (6-of-19).
Fort Wayne was paced by a career-best-tying 32 points from all-league guard Frank Gaines, who shot 11-of-19 from the floor and 10-of-12 from the free throw line. Gaines narrowly missed a double-double, finishing with nine rebounds, along with two helpers and three steals. Luis Jacobo (16 points) and Michael Kibiloski (12) also had double-figure nights.
Down by five with a tally of 41-36 at halftime, Omaha improved its shooting from 50 percent in the first half to a nearly unstoppable 78 percent in the second stanza. The Mavericks hit 15 of their first 16 shots in the second half, a rally which resulted in UNO’s first double-digit lead of the game at 75-65 with 6:34 to go.
Fort Wayne chipped away at the Mavs’ advantage, and Jacobo connected on a trey with just under a minute remaining, cutting UNO’s lead to 82-79. With six seconds left, Simmons drew a foul from Joe Edwards, which was followed by a technical foul, sending Simmons to the line. He hit all four free throws, sealing Omaha’s win at 86-79.
Omaha returns to action on Saturday, Feb. 2, hosting Oakland. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. at Ralston Arena, and links to live video and live stats will be available on OMavs.com.