The UNO men’s basketball team was in desperate need of a win Monday night, and the Privateers played like it.
Following a disheartening homecoming loss to Texas A&M Corpus-Christi on Saturday, UNO bounced back with a dominant 87-67 victory over Central Arkansas on Monday night at Lakefront Arena, ending a five-game losing streak.
“Our guys were very disappointed after Saturday’s loss,” UNO coach Mark Slessinger said. “They were locked in from the beginning. Nobody wants to start 1-5 (in conference play), so they were mad, too. I think we got some great practice in because of that, and it will make us a better team come March.”
Kevin Brown led the Privateers (6-10, 2-5) with a season-high 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting. He reached double digits in back-to-back games for the first time since the first two games of the season.
Kevin Hill added 18 points with nine rebounds.
“I’m finally starting to get my legs back,” Brown said. “I’m getting more confidence in my shot, and now I’m just ready to get it rolling.”
The Privateers didn’t waste any time separating themselves from the winless Bears (0-18, 0-7). UNO made its first seven attempts from the field and forced Central Arkansas into several mistakes on the other end, which led to the Privateers racing to an 18-3 lead in the first five minutes.
By halftime, UNO’s lead ballooned to 50-33, and the Privateers had shot a blistering 69 percent. It was only the second 50-point half of the season for the Privateers, after their 54-point first half in a Dec. 6 victory over Crowley’s Ridge.
UNO held at least an 18-point lead for the entire second half.
“It all started on the defensive end,” Brown said. “We just wanted to come out and be aggressive on defense, and we knew it would help us on offense. It worked out well.”
After Monday’s win, the Privateers head on their fourth three-game road trip of the season, and those trips have not been very successful. They’ve gone 1-8 in those games, but Slessinger hopes the way the Privateers played Monday can have a positive affect on them as they hit the road again.
“We’ve got a good opportunity here; we’ve just got to carry our defensive intensity with us in these road games,” Brown said. “We’re making progress as a team; we just need to play with the same confidence we did tonight and bring that same defensive intensity.”
Slessinger decided to go deeper into his bench during Monday’s game, giving 11 players at least 4 minutes. At certain points, UNO was even doing hockey-style substitutions, with five players coming off the bench to replace the five on the floor.
Jordan Howard led Central Arkansas with 16 points.