Sandwiched between two Pac-12 opponents, UNO will have a major challenge from Seattle

Sandwiched between two Pac-12 opponents, UNO will have a major challenge from Seattle
Zach Jackson, who leads the Mavericks in scoring, and UNO will be going up against a Seattle team averaging 82.9 points per game. RYAN SODERLIN/THE WORLD-HERALD

UNO is coming off a game against a Pac-12 opponent and has another one coming up on Saturday.

But in between the matchups with Arizona State and Oregon, the Mavericks face a road test at Seattle of the Western Athletic Conference that may be as tough as either those trips to play high-major foes.

The Redhawks bring an 8-2 mark into Thursday’s contest, which is part of the new Summit League/WAC Challenge. The WAC has had the upper hand in the first-year event, winning four of the first six games.

UNO (3-5) comes into its third of five consecutive road dates off back-to-back losses at Iowa State and Arizona State. The Mavs didn’t play well in the first of those games, but fared much better in the second. They led the Sun Devils in the first half, with a chance to go up by double figures, before Arizona State took over.

“We really competed at Arizona State,” UNO coach Derrin Hansen said. “They are, top to bottom, the most athletic team — probably — we’ve ever played. And we’ve been in a lot of big places. I thought their athleticism was off the charts. We competed and we battled … and we won some one-on-one battles.”

The Mavs left Tempe, Arizona, with an 89-71 defeat, but Hansen liked the way his team handled the result.

“The biggest thing is I’m proud of the way we have bounced back,” he said. “Losses are hard, no matter who they’re against. And even though it was disappointing because you don’t win the basketball game, because that’s what we’re here for, you could see our team’s confidence coming out of that game.”

UNO hopes to carry that confidence to Seattle, which will be playing its 10th consecutive home game. The Redhawks have won eight of nine, including their last five, since a season-opening loss at Stanford.

All five of Seattle’s starters are double-digit scorers. The Redhawks are averaging 82.9 points per game.

“With Seattle, we know they’ve got a couple of guys that like to shoot that can get their shot off really quick,” UNO guard Zach Jackson said. “We know we have to close out to shooters. We know they have a really good team. We’re going to have to be locked in defensively to come up with a win out there.”

The Redhawks have been impressive during the first month of the season. They own a home win over Washington State and handed Summit League member Denver an 82-63 loss in the Elgin Baylor Classic.

“We know they’re a great team, but we know they’re probably not as athletic as a Power Five (team) or not as fast as a Power Five,” Jackson said. “We know going into games like this, it’s  more like a conference game. We can gauge how we are defensively and offensively against teams our size.”

Hansen agreed with that comparison and said the Mavs won’t even talk about Oregon until after Seattle.

“It’ll be a really tough environment against a really good team,” he said. “It’ll be a great test for us and one that will be equal to a lot of places we’re in (within) the Summit League on the road.”

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