UNO men fall to Houston Baptist in overtime

NEW ORLEANS — Rarlensee Nelson pounded the floor Saturday afternoon at the Lakefront Arena, realizing he lost his opportunity to win one of his last college basketball games at the University of New Orleans.

Nelson had just missed a left-handed layup with 32 seconds left in overtime, a shot he’d made dozens of times for the Privateers, including earlier in a game which became a 75-68 loss to Houston Baptist.

This time, though, the ball rolled out of the rim, leading to a loose ball on the court, several feet from Nelson, ruining Senior Day for him and forward Lovell Cook.

Not that the loss, which dropped UNO to 8-14 in its
final season as a Division I independent, could be blamed solely on Nelson. Long before his missed layup, the Privateers squandered a lead as large as 14 in the second half.

Houston Baptist switched to a zone defense and UNO’s offense stalled, forcing overtime. Once there, UNO went scoreless during four consecutive possessions.

“We had a couple of turnovers, and we couldn’t finish at the basket,” said Cook, who led UNO with 16 points and eight rebounds. “In overtime, once that gets going, you really dig yourself into a hole.”

The Privateers return to the court Feb. 18 in their home finale against Central Baptist. In the meantime, UNO has the entire week to contemplate Saturday’s missed opportunities.

Houston Baptist forward Art Bernardi scored 13 of his game-high 23 points in the second half.

Rob Lewis took over in overtime, coming off the bench to score four points and end UNO’s five-game home winning streak.

For UNO, Corey Dixon’s two free throws with 50 seconds left forced overtime.

Houston Baptist (9-14) then outscored UNO 15-8 in the final period. Lewis hit a jump shot, then with 17 seconds left, made two free throws.

During the stretch, UNO’s Eddie Denard committed a turnover, Dixon missed a layup then committed a turnover. Trailing 70-67, Nelson penetrated to his left and reached the rim.

It wasn’t an easy shot, but it was a layup Nelson had made many times. Just not this time. Nelson finished with 11 points on 5-for-9 shooting.

“He struggled finishing all day today, at different times,” UNO coach Mark Slessinger said. “He had seven turnovers, which is so far out of his normal play. I think he was pressing really hard.”

For UNO, Dixon came off the bench to score 15 points. Denard finished with seven points on 2-for-5 shooting with seven points before fouling out.