Editor’s Note: Cover Image provided by Mike Zayas.
SAN MARCOS, Texas-In Clif Carroll’s first game at the helm of the UMHB men’s basketball program, the Cru fell to Texas State in an exhibition, 98-59.
“We had a lot of good, a lot of bad,” said Carroll postgame. “Our effort level has to be there consistently. I don’t care if we’re playing a JV team. We have to play hard all the time, we have to execute better, and stay together as a team.”
With Josiah Johnson, who scored 17 points, and Carson Hammond, who had 18, leading the way, UMHB never abandoned the fight as they battled a division one opponent in the Bobcats. In fact, with 3:06 to play in the first half, the Cru narrowed the deficit to a mere eight points. While Texas State exploded with an 13-0 run to conclude the half, and sealed the victory in the second half, it gave Carroll and his team the confidence to know they could compete with division one competition.
However, without Byrale Carter, Aedan Welch and Ty Prince on the floor (all three were unavailable for different reasons) the Cru went ice cold when it came to shooting at certain points throughout the contest, a lack of experience surfacing. A total of 13 players made their UMHB debuts against Texas State.
“We had this game to eight points, then we hit a stall where we couldn’t score,” said Carroll. “Byrale and Ty give us two guys that could go get a bucket. Ty would’ve been the best player on the floor tonight.”
The Cru came out firing in the first half, but struggled to combat the solid point guard play of Texas State’s Mason Harrell, who tallied 15 points, five assists and three rebounds. Carroll’s squad attempted to cover their defensive shortcomings with solid offense, and did so, as Hammond knocked down multiple threes, and Sam Reaves aggressively drove to the lane. UMHB’s fast-paced attack create multiple scoring opportunities, although the Cru shot just 29% in the first half.
As the second half got underway, Texas State led 46-23, but the Crusaders walked out of the locker room looking confident. Unfortunately, that confidence seldom resulted in scoring, as errant passes were snatched away by the ever-quick Bobcat defenders, and calls continued to go Texas State’s way. One positive that came out of the second half was that they were able to score from short-range more often, as they put up 14 points in the paint in the second half as compared to 10 in the first.
At the end of the day, UMHB fought hard for all 40 minutes, and that was all Carroll could ask for. He does expect more effort out of his group, though, as they journey to Abilene for two games this weekend.
“We can’t have these lapses where we just quit,” said Carroll. “That comes with a lot of inexperienced guys, guys that get frustrated because their offense isn’t going the way they think it should. Their effort level then drops. That’s just a sign of young kids, young teams. They just need to continue to be coached. Our culture and our system need to be reinforced and eventually we’ll be able to compete better with teams like this.”
UMHB’s style of play is marked by quick passing, and aggressive drives to the lane, though their defense was marred by Texas State finding threes in the corner. Other than those outside shots, and a height disadvantage, the Cru played airtight defense. As they embark on the remainder of the non-conference slate, the only non-ASC team they will face is Sam Houston State, another division one program and a member of the Southland Conference. Facing fellow division three opponents, UMHB’s talent and hard-nosed aggressiveness will come to light. It certainly did in spurts against Texas State. Plus, at some point soon, Carter, Prince and Welch will become available, making the Cru that much more dangerous.
For now, Hammond and Johnson will be the centerpieces of UMHB’s attack, and Carroll has plenty of confidence in those two guards. Both are transfers (Johnson played at Southern Nazarene University, Hammond played at Western Texas College) and showed poise despite Texas State’s scoring runs.
“Josiah’s a young kid,” said Carroll when talking about his starting point guard. “He really didn’t play a lot last year at the D2 he was at. He’s really inexperienced. He got rattled in the first half. We just had to reinforce him, and he came out great in the second half, did some nice things. Josiah’s going to be a really good player. He’s a really talented, kid, a nice kid, a good Christian kid, the kind of guy we want in our program and the kind of of player our fans are going to love and root for.
“Carson is from Belton, his brother played at UMHB, he’s tough,” said Carroll.” He’s a steady force. He’s kind of been our leader so far, I don’t have enough praise for Carson. He’s tougher than nails, made some really great plays tonight.”
Up next for the Cru is a road matchup on Friday afternoon at 6 pm against Hardin-Simmons.