UNO pulls away for victory over Nicholls

NEW ORLEANS — The UNO men’s basketball team avenged an earlier loss to Nicholls State and snapped a three-game losing streak all in a night’s work Wednesday at Lakefront Arena.

And while the 79-76 victory brought a smile to the face of Privateers’ second-year coach Mark Slessinger, his thoughts turned immediately to an upcoming road trip that will take his team away from New Orleans for the holidays.

Following pre-Christmas stops at Southern Illinois (Dec. 17), Southeast Missouri State (Dec. 19) and Boise State (Dec. 23) in Las Vegas, the Privateers welcome in the New Year at Mississippi State (Jan. 3), in Indianapolis against two-time national runnerup Butler University (Jan. 5) and San Jose State (Jan. 8) in Las Vegas.

“We’re looking at this upcoming road trip as a good learning experience for us next year when we have a five-game road swing in the middle of our Southland Conference schedule,’’ Slessinger said. “This will be a good test for us against some very good basketball teams.’’

UNO (3-5) squandered an 11-point lead in the final 81/2 minutes and were pushed to the brink of defeat by the Colonels (1-5), tying the game at 73 and again at 75.

But the Privateers found the resolve to knock down crucial free throws by Corey Blake and Kevin Hill in the waning seconds to avenge a 92-79 at Nicholls State on Nov. 26.

Blake led six Privateers in double figures with 13 points and UNO needed every one to offset a career-high 36-point outing by Colonels senior swingman Fred Hunter.

“We needed to know that we could withstand a tough challenge and finish out a game against a good basketball team,’’ said Slessinger, whose team made six of 11 shots (54.5 percent) from behind the 3-point arc. “And we did that tonight.”

“We had the guts to get it done when it counted.

“So, I’ll see y’all next year. We hit the road in a couple of days and we don’t get back till mid-January or something. So, believe me, this was a good send off.’’