OMAHA, Neb. — The Omaha men’s basketball team erased a 16-point second-half deficit Thursday night, defeating Western Illinois 87-82 in an overtime thriller at Baxter Arena. With their 15th straight home win, the Mavericks improve to 11-10 (4-2 Summit League), while the Leathernecks drop to 5-12 (2-5).
Leaders for Omaha
KJ Robinson was the Mavericks’ leading scorer for the fourth straight game, finishing with a season-high-tying 24 points with five 3-pointers — including 21 points after halftime. The senior added three rebounds, three assists and two steals in 42 minutes of work.
Matt Pile registered his seventh double-double of the year with 16 points and 11 rebounds, hitting a perfect 4-of-4 from the floor and 8-of-11 at the line.
Leaders for Western Illinois
The Leathernecks had six double-figure scorers on the night: Kobe Webster (17), Ben Pyle (13), James Claar (13), Zion Young (11), C.J. Duff (11) and Kyle Arrington (10). Pyle grabbed a team-leading nine rebounds, and Young had another eight caroms.
Omaha shot 46.8% (29-of-62) to WIU’s 45.5% (30-of-66). The Mavericks came in at 88.0% (22-of-25) from the line.
WIU had a 38-35 rebounding advantage and outscored Omaha 16-8 off turnovers.
Inside the First Half
Omaha struggled in the first half, shooting just 35.5% (11-of-31) from the floor and just 18.2% (2-of-11) from deep while WIU hit at a 61.5% (16-of-26) clip. The Mavericks started just 1-of-10 beyond the arc and trailed 42-31 at the midway point.
Inside the Second Half
After closing the first half with a three, Robinson opened the second stanza with another triple to cut the Leatherneck lead to 42-34. WIU then used a 9-1 run to build to a 16-point advantage — their largest of the game — less than three minutes in.
But Omaha hung tough, as six straight points from Robinson cut it to 51-41 and sparked a 17-2 run, which was capped with a Gibson three to pull Omaha within one at 53-52 with 12 minutes to play.
The Mavericks never led in the second half but finally tied it at 70-70 on a pair of Ruffin free throws with just under two minutes to go. They knotted it again at 72-all on a Gibson jumper that was the equalizer with a minute left and sent the game to the extra period.
Robinson’s fifth trey of the night put Omaha up 77-75. After Young hit a three of his own on the other end, Akinwole went to the line and hit a pair to give the Mavericks the lead for good, then added another bucket to make it 81-78 with 1:16 remaining.
Omaha was a flawless 8-of-8 at the line in the final five minutes, including 6-of-6 in the final 37 seconds by Pile, Gibson and Robinson, sealing the win at 87-82 and preserve its streak at home.
Noting Tonight’s Game
-Omaha now leads the all-time series with Western Illinois, 13-10, including 10-7 in the Division I era.
-The Mavericks have won nine of the last 10 meetings, including seven straight. They also have won seven straight at home against the Leathernecks.
–KJ Robinson has had three straight 20-point performances and four consecutive games with four or more 3-pointers.
-Omaha has won five straight games in overtime dating back to the 2017-18 season.
-The Mavericks have prevailed over a double-digit deficit 34 times in the Derrin Hansen era, including 22 in the Division I era. They have done so three times in 2019-20, coming back from 15 down at Washington State (Nov. 21) and 11 down vs. Oral Roberts (Jan. 4).
Omaha returns to action on Saturday, Jan. 25, welcoming Purdue Fort Wayne to Baxter Arena at 7 p.m.