It appears as if the UNO men’s basketball team’s new favorite shot is the 3-pointer.
The Privateers (10-16, 6-11 in the Southland) reached a season high in 3-pointers made for the third time in their last four games as they barely avoided giving away a 23-point lead late to complete the season sweep over Southeastern Louisiana with an 85-79 win in the team’s home finale at the Lakefront Arena on Thursday night.
“There were times where we just got over-aggressive and went into areas with traffic, and that got us in trouble,” said UNO coach Mark Slessinger. “We’ve worked on being aggressive in certain areas and we got a little too aggressive, but I was happy that we were able to make foul shots down the stretch and execute their in the final minute and a half.
“Whether we had a lead or lost a lead, I’m just glad we were able to close out a close game.”
UNO guard Nate Frye, who came into Thursday’s game with 14 made 3-pointers all season, led the charge for the Privateers, going 6-of-7 on 3-pointers and scoring a career-high 24 points.
It took the Privateers 13 games to make their 37th three-point field goal this season, but they’ve matched that number in their last four games, including a season-high 12 from beyond the arc in Thursday’s win, as they complete the year with an 8-4 record at home.
“We’ve just been in the gym really hard getting our shots up lately,” Frye said. “The guys have been on me about getting in the gym and adding the 3-point shot to my game and we’ve been in the gym everyday trying to get it right. I’m just happy today it started paying off.”
The Privateers came out firing to start the second half, drilling their first three 3-point attempts, which helped extend their lead to 54-38 within the first few minutes of the half.
The Privateers lead grew as large as 23 at one point, but the Lions (9-21, 6-11) clawed their way back into the game with a 29-8 run that concluded with a Cedric Jenkins 3-pointer that cut the UNO lead down to 81-79 with 20 seconds left.
Despite nearly coughing up their commanding lead, the Privateers knocked down their free throws and made a few key stops to ensure their victory.
“Man, we just keep making the same mistakes to let these teams back in games,” said senior Kevin Brown, who finished his last game at the Lakefront Arena with 13 points and three assists. “Our intensity drops and we just start allowing teams to get to the basket without any resistance.
“It all starts on defense with us, and once we were able to finally get some stops, we were able to put the game away.”
After trailing the Lions for much of the first half, UNO picked up their defensive intensity in the final minutes of the first half, which allowed them to get out in transition and score some easy baskets.
After a Jenkins layup gave Southeastern a 31-29 lead with 5:04 left, UNO closed the half with a 13-0 run that gave the Privateers their double-digit lead of the game.
Jenkins nailed a 3-pointer with eight seconds left to end the UNO run, but the damage was already done, as the Privateers headed into halftime with a 42-34 lead.
Jenkins dominated the game for the Lions, finishing with a game-high 39 points on 14-of-22 shooting from the field.
“We weren’t able to stop (Jenkins) tonight, he was on fire,” Brown said. “We didn’t really play well at all to start the game, but once we started playing how we play, we took control and showed how good we are. Once we did that, it gave us the confidence to come out and dominate that first part of the second half.”
The Privateers conclude the regular season when they travel to face Northwestern State on Saturday. After Saturday’s game, the Privateers will head to Katy, Texas where to participate in the Southland Conference Tournament.