OMAHA, Neb. — The Omaha men’s basketball team returned home to Baxter Arena for the first time in more than a month Friday night, falling 85-77 to Western Illinois.
Leaders for Omaha
Ayo Akinwole hit 9-of-11 from the field — including 3-of-4 from beyond the arc — en route to a career-high 27 points. The senior was also 6-of-7 from the stripe and added five rebounds, a game-high four assists and a steal.
Nick Ferrarini came off the bench to score in double figures for the second straight game, canning three 3-pointers for 11 points.
Marlon Ruffin added 10 points, and Matt Pile finished with nine points, nine rebounds, four blocks, three assists and a steal.
Leaders for Western Illinois
Will Carius led the Leathernecks with 21 points while going a perfect 9-of-9 at the line, and Anthony Jones added 20 points and seven boards. Colton Sandage also had 13 points.
Cameron Burrell pulled down a team-high nine rebounds.
Omaha, which trailed from the start, shot 45.6% (26-of-57) to Western’s 45.8% (27-of-59). The Leathernecks came in at 81.3% (26-of-32) at the line and outrebounded Omaha 46-29, including 14-7 on the offensive end.
Inside the First Half
Akinwole and Kyle Luedtke paced Omaha in the opening half with six points apiece, and Pile had five points and five caroms with four blocks. Western got 13 points before the break from Jones.
WIU had five straight turnovers before the first media timeout, but Omaha started 0-of-5 from the field and shot just 28.0% (7-of-25) for the half.
The Mavericks trailed 37-31 at the midway point.
Inside the Second Half
Omaha heated up to shoot 59.4% (19-of-32) in the second half, hitting five of its seven threes in the final 20 minutes.
Akinwole caught fire for 21 points on the back of 8-of-9 shooting, while Ferrarini scored eight of his 11 points in the second stanza.
Five straight points from Akinwole ignited a 9-0 run for Omaha, which cut it to 60-55 with 9:42 to play.
Akinwole and Ferrarini then drilled back-to-back triples late, bringing Omaha within three at 74-71 with 2:50 remaining. But it was the closest the Mavericks would get, as WIU hit nine of its last 10 from the line to close the game.
Noting Tonight’s Game
-Nick Ferrarini has averaged 13.0 ppg off the bench over the last two games.
-Omaha is now 2-15 (0-7 Summit League) on the year, while WIU improves to 4-12 (2-7).
Omaha and Western Illinois face each other a second time on Saturday, Feb. 6, with tipoff set for 7 p.m. at Baxter Arena.