MARSHALL, Texas- A three-pointer from Aedan Welch followed by a Gibson Hearne free throw gave way to a narrow 75-73 non-conference road victory for the UMHB men’s basketball team on Saturday afternoon against East Texas Baptist.
If we learned one thing about this year’s team, it is that the Crusaders are clutch even in the high-pressure situations with the game on the line.
The game was certainly on the line late in the second half on Saturday, as the Cru saw an 11- point lead evaporate in a matter of minutes, with ETBU putting together an improbable 9-0 scoring run to tie the game with 2:47 to play. Though Josiah Johnson buried two free throws, the Tigers’ Jayden Williams found his mark from beyond the arc, knocking down a three to give ETBU a 72-71 advantage with 1:56 left. Looking at potentially its third loss of the week, UMHB rallied back behind Welch’s three, which came with 1:14 on the clock. That three put the Cru in front 74-73, and they never looked back, hanging on for a notable non-conference win.
Despite the fact that ETBU had more height in the post, and outrebounded the Cru 36-34, the visitors from Belton made up for it by shooting an impressive 53 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range.
Take a look at UMHB’s first half stats, and you might be under the impression that the Cru were playing a game of three on three basketball, not five on five. Three players; Carson Hammond, Josiah Johnson, and Aedan Welch; scored all but two of UMHB’s first half points. Despite this, the Cru took a 42-37 advantage into the half, demonstrating just how important those three are to the team’s success. For the second straight game, Johnson scored 30-plus points, this time going 11-of-20 from the field with 38 points. Over the past two games, Johnson has combined for 77 points.
Even on a day in which a strong offensive performance was crucial to earning a victory, the defense was not lacking as 17 turnovers were forced.
If there is one area in which head coach Clif Carroll will expect more out of his squad, it is limiting turnovers. The Cru turned the ball over on 24 occasions Saturday, leading to 28 of ETBU’s points.
Beating an ASC rival in non-conference action not only provided the Cru with a confidence booster. It also gave the team a feel of what conference play, which begins Thursday, will look and feel like. Conference games are often won and lost in the final minutes, and the ability to score and defend in those situations is the difference between a team playing for the conference title and watching the championship game from home.
UMHB certainly passed its final non-conference test of the season, and will now embark on a tough ASC slate that tips off against UT Dallas on Thursday in Richardson, Texas. The contest will begin at 7:30 p.m.
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