With second-chance points being such a big part of the team’s game plan Thursday against Southeastern Louisiana, it only seemed right for UNO’s final play of the game to come down to an offensive rebound.
Unfortunately for the Privateers (9-19, 5-12), Travin Thibodeaux’s potential buzzer-beating putback came up short in a 61-60 loss to the Lions in a Southland Conference men’s basketball game at UNO’s Lakefront Arena.
“We wanted to try and get it inside,” UNO coach Mark Slessinger said. “We got two good looks at the end. It would’ve been an unbelievable way to win, but we just came up short.”
UNO’s season finale against Northwestern State on Saturday suddenly becomes a must-win for the Privateers after Thursday’s loss with a berth to the Southland Conference tournament on the line.
With a loss on Saturday and a Nicholls State. win over Southeastern, the Privateers would be knocked out of contention for the SLC tournament, which begins on March 9.
“Everyone in our program knows what’s at stake,” Slessinger said. “Our backs are against the wall, and we know what we have to do. We just have to come out ready to go.”
UNO trailed 54-47 with 5:21 left in the game but it picked up the defensive intensity to claw back.
The teams exchanged the lead five times in the final two minutes of the game, and Southeastern guard Marlain Veal knocked down two free throws to give the Lions (11-19, 9-8) a 61-60 lead with 15 seconds left in the game.
The Privateers had an opportunity to go for the win on the final shot of the game, but Christavious Gill’s jumper went long, and Thibodeaux’s putback as the buzzer sounded rolled off the rim, clinching the win for Southeastern.
Erik Thomas finished as the leading scorer for the Privateers with 18 points and six rebounds. Thibodeaux also added seven points and and tied his career-high with 15 rebounds.
“We kept telling our guys, ‘I know we’re small, but we’ve got to get in there and fight,’ ” Southeastern coach Jay Ladner said. “UNO’s got a tough, physical team. They were doing what they do best, and considering the circumstances, I was proud of our guys.”
Despite going without two of its top frontcourt players in Kevin Hill (personal reasons) and Tevin Broyles (concussion), UNO kept the game close for most of the night with its dominance on the offensive boards.
The Privateers snagged a season-high 26 offensive rebounds on the night and scored 26 second-chance points, but only managed to shoot 34 percent from the field and missed 11 of their 22 free throws.
Slessinger said he expects Broyles and Hill to be back Saturday.
“It was massive to be able to attack the glass the way we did,” said Slessinger. “That’s one of the few things we’ve been able to do well all year. Tonight it was a big emphasis, but we just didn’t get enough of the second-chance points to go.”