It’s no secret that the UNO men’s basketball team is excited for their opportunity to see what the postseason is like.
The Privateers (7-14, 3-9 in Southland Conference), who are eligible for postseason play for the first time since 2010, have four of their final six games at home and all six in Louisiana. With the opportunity to stay close to home for the final stretch of the regular season, UNO coach Mark Slessinger hopes his team can round themselves into shape for their first appearance in the SLC Tournament.
With five of the schools in the Southland ineligible for the postseason, UNO is one of eight teams in the conference that automatically qualifies for the tournament. It begins on Mar. 11 and will be played in Katy, Texas.
“We really want to build some positive momentum here heading into the conference tournament,” Slessinger said. “We want to be playing well and start developing so we can get over the hump in some of these close games.
“But, this is a very important stretch for us, no doubt.”
The Privateers begin their final stretch of the regular season Saturday with a game against a Northwestern St. team that has won six of their last seven games and currently ranked third in the conference with a 14-10 record, 9-4 in SLC play.
The Demons come into the game with two of the top three scorers in the conference with Zeek Woodley (22.5 points per game) and Jalan West (18.4), and Slessinger said the key for his team defeating the Demons is slowing down their potent scoring duo.
“We have to do a really good job of taking care of those guys,” Slessinger said. “We just have to be active and do whatever we can to frustrate those guys. Their the best scoring duo in the conference, so if we can slow them down, we’ll have a chance.”
One of the main points Slessinger said he plans stressing to his team during their preparation for the SLC tournament over the next six games is their execution down the stretch of close games.
The Privateers lost their last two games by a total of five points, and six of their nine conference losses this season have come by a single-digit margin.
“We’ve been doing a lot of work in film and at practice on just taking care of the ball,” Slessinger said. “We’re right there in a lot of these games, we just have to do a better job of taking care of the ball and making plays an experienced team would make.”
UNO’s game against Northwestern State will be played at the Lakefront Arena on Saturday at 6:15 p.m.