UNO gave their largest crowd of the season everything they could have wanted for a homecoming game.
Well, everything except a men’s college basketball win.
After falling behind 18-2 to begin the game, the Privateers (5-10, 1-5) fought their way back and forced the game into overtime. But they eventually fell to Texas A&M Corpus Christi 71-67 in overtime at the Lakefront Arena on Saturday night.
“It was great to have the students out to support,” UNO forward Kevin Hill said. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get the win. We’ve been improving everyday, and you saw that with the way we played down the stretch. But unfortunately, we weren’t able to get the ‘W.’”
The Privateers had an opportunity to tie the game in the final seconds in overtime, but the Islanders (10-8, 5-1) forced a turnover, and Ehab Amin laid it in to complete the victory for Corpus Christi.
Forward Bryce Douvier paced the Islanders attack with 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting and 10 rebounds. Rashawn Thomas and John Jordan each added 13 points for the Islanders.
“To start the game down 20, it shows the composure of our guys to fight their way back into the game,” UNO coach Mark Slessinger said. “I’m not happy that we lost this game, and I’m not happy with where we’re at by any means, but I’m excited about where we can grow to. We’ll own this loss and get back to work and get ready for our game on Monday.”
The Islanders were able to keep UNO at arms length for most of the second half, but the Privateers finally grabbed their first lead of the game with 9:23 left when forward Colton Weisbrod snatched away a rebound from a Corpus Christi defender and laid it in while being fouled to give UNO a 45-43 lead.
UNO stayed close with Corpus Christi down the stretch late in the second half, but the Islanders reclaimed their lead and even extended it to 58-54 on a free throw by Douvier with 44 seconds left. UNO responded by closing the half with a 6-2 run that ended with Kevin Brown draining three clutch free throws with 22 seconds left to tie the game at 60.
After Jordan missed two free throws on the ensuing Corpus Christi possession, Hill air-balled on a potential game-winning jumper as time expired.
Hill led the Privateers with 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Brown contributed 13 points on 3-of-7 shooting from the field.
“We still make some very immature plays and basketball decisions,” Slessinger said. “We’ve got to cut down on that, but I think we’re very close to putting long runs of good play together. We see on film that guys are playing better and making decisions quicker, we just need them to come along faster.”
Corpus Christi jumped on UNO early and silenced the crowd, using their defense and inside presence to race out to an 24-6 lead in the first nine minutes of the game. It seemed as if everything that could have gone wrong for the Privateers did.
Corpus Christi nailed nine out of their first 12 field-goal attempts in the game, while UNO could make two of their first 10. The Privateers were outrebounded 9-2 during their slow start and made things worse by turning the ball over four times, which turned into seven Islanders points.
“I just think we had a lot of nerves,” Hill said. “It was a huge crowd and it was homecoming week, and a lot of guys were anxious to be out there in front of a large crowd. Once we settled down and started focusing on defense, our offense came and that helped us get back in the game.”
Once Slessinger decided to switch over to a 2-3 zone, his defense began to get some stops and the Privateers started chipping away at the Islanders’ lead. After a Jelani Currie layup gave Corpus Christi a 33-13 lead with 6:25 left in the first half, UNO responded with a 16-2 run to end the half and cut their deficit to 35-29 going into halftime.
After turning the ball over only three times in the first 15 minutes of the game, the Privateers 2-3 zone forced the Islanders into five turnovers in the final five minutes of the half.
“It was important to mix some of our coverages on them and disrupt what they do offensively,” Slessinger said. “They’re a big rhythm team on offense, and I think once they got out to that rhythm, you saw how good they can be. We started disrupting them on defense and that started making things easier for us on offense.”