It always ends in a loss. Those words have become very familiar to most of us over the last few years. I know that I've used it several times to console myself at the end of the year. It wasn't going to end any other way, life goes on, and it always ends in a loss.
This year for UNO there was a chance, a very slim chance, that it wasn't going to end in a loss. Due to not being eligible for any postseason play, UNO knew that their final game was going to be on February 29th at Western Illinois. The downside for UNO was that Western Illinois was the fourth seed in the upcoming Summit League Tournament and was a very talented team. The chance for an upset was slim.
The first half was exciting for the Mavericks. They hung with Western Illinois and didn't get knocked out by any of the punches. UNO even had some punches of their own, and showed they could play with Western. It was like a lot of UNO's season: promising. UNO had gone to Nevada and given them a bit of a scare. They'd taken IPFW to overtime, and South Dakota and UMKC to the buzzer. This was a team featuring zero players recruited for the D-I level, yet you could see them competing when they played well.
The second half was not so exciting for the Mavericks. When you are the big underdog in games like this, you really have to play a perfect game. You can't afford to have long stretches of scoreless play during the game. You can't go ice-cold for a while. Defensively, you can't go into lapses where you let the other team do everything they want to do without even slowing them down. And once it starts to unravel, it's usually over. The second half went exactly that way for UNO. It'd happened a lot to UNO this season: blowout losses at Colorado State, Michigan State, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, North Dakota State, and twice against Washburn.
I wasn't at any of those games, so this was my first time watching UNO get humiliated in person. It was tough, really tough. I knew the guys were trying but it just didn't seem to matter. Watching Mitch Albers struggle through his final game was very hard. There's just nothing you can do but hope it ends quickly and make the best of it. After all, it always ends in a loss.
I'm looking forward to next season. It will be a much different task for UNO; harder in many ways, easier in other ways. The familiarity of having a conference schedule, complete with some nice home games, will be so nice. It'll be cool to look at the standings and see UNO, even if it will probably be at the bottom. The recruiting is getting going at the D-I level, and will hopefully start to impact the team in the next few years. Of course there won't be many games (just one) against Division II and NAIA opponents. No easy wins next year. A five-win season could happen, though I hope we can see more.
And once again there will be a chance, a very small chance, that UNO will not end the season with a loss. The final game looks to be March 2nd, at home against North Dakota State. UNO would have to have a winning season to make the NIT, CBI, or CIT and is not eligible for the Summit League Tournament. Do the math on all that, and it would probably require a UNO team with less than 10 wins to upset a North Dakota State team that smashed them by 33 this year. I have a feeling that, as always, I'm going to end the year saying, "It always ends in a loss."
at WESTERN ILLINOIS 72, NEBRASKA-OMAHA 51 02/29/2012
NEBRASKA-OMAHA 10-18 (0-0) -- A. Welhouse 2-11 0-0 6; M. Albers 5-12 1-1 13; C. Carter 0-5 3-3 3; C. Steffensmeier 2-6 0-0 5; J. Karhoff 4-9 0-0 8; M. Hagerbaumer 2-2 0-0 4; J. Coleman 0-1 0-0 0; J. Ring 2-2 0-0 4; I. Gandy 0-2 0-0 0; T. Egli 1-2 0-0 3; M. Farr 1-3 0-0 3; B. Freeman 0-2 2-2 2. Totals 19-57 6-6 51. WESTERN ILLINOIS 16-13 (9-9) -- C. Clark 3-9 0-0 9; O. Emegano 9-14 0-1 18; J. Houpt 5-8 0-0 15; T. Parks 5-7 2-2 12; T. Tyler 3-9 0-0 6; R. Roberts-Burnett 0-2 0-0 0; D. Gebru 1-1 0-0 2; D. McAvoy III 2-4 0-0 4; J. Packer 0-0 0-0 0; A. Watson 2-3 0-0 4; J. McDonald 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 31-58 2-3 72.
Three-point goals: NEBO 7-25 (C. Carter 0-4; J. Coleman 0-1; C. Steffensmeier 1-3; B. Freeman 0-1; T. Egli 1-1; M. Albers 2-6; A. Welhouse 2-6; M. Farr 1-2; J. Karhoff 0-1), WIU 8-19 (C. Clark 3-8; T. Tyler 0-2; A. Watson 0-1; J. Houpt 5-8); Rebounds: NEBO 27 (A. Welhouse 6), WIU 34 (T. Parks 14); Assists: NEBO 15 (C. Steffensmeier 4), WIU 25 (T. Tyler 6); Total Fouls -- NEBO 9, WIU 12; Fouled Out: NEBO-J. Karhoff; WIU-None.