BELTON, Texas- Fresh off an extended winter break, the UMHB women’s basketball team played with a vengeance in its final non-conference game of the season, besting North American University, 91-39, in an exhibition.
From the opening tip to the final buzzer, smart passing and aggressive rebounding paved to way for the Cru’s fifth win of the season, though the contest will not count towards UMHB’s record.
The Cru raced out to an early 10-0 lead that turned into a 22-2 advantage by the end of the first quarter. By the half, they were up 44-14. UMHB never trailed, and won the battle on the boards in decisive fashion, outrebounding NAU 80-27.
“I thought the biggest thing was how we started the game,” head coach Mark Morefield said postgame. “We challenged that starting five to start the games a little bit better so how we started the game was very crucial.”
UMHB dominated the offensive glass early, outrebounding the Stallions offensively 14-1 at the half. That resulted in several scoring opportunities, though the Crusaders had trouble taking advantage of them, according to head coach Mark Morefield.
“We need to do a better job of finishing out on offensive rebounds,” said Morefield. “We need to do a better job of finishing through contact, not so much the initial play, but the contact afterwards. That is the biggest thing.”
Though to the average fan it may seem that Morefield is too critical, especially after a 52 point win, he is really just thinking long-term. An exhibition win is nice, but there was a much greater purpose to this game. With UT-Dallas and the conference schedule looming, 40 minutes of effort and confidence will be necessary in order to have success in ASC play.
“The biggest thing we talked about with UNT-Dallas was that we got to have better effort,” said Morefield.”We can’t be outhustled. Against UNT-Dallas, we were outhustled. That’s what we can’t have. We’ve really been talking about that. On paper, we feel like we’re more talented than anyone we will play. But how teams stay around is if they outhustle us. We have to be able to play at a high level. We have talent, but we also have to play with great effort and hustle.”
To watch UMHB play is a thing of beauty, with perfectly timed passes in transition and in the half-court offense, as the Cru picked apart the Stallions’ zone defense. NAU was shorthanded, with just eight players making the trip down to Belton. Not one of those eight was over 6’0, and the Cru took advantage of that, getting the ball to the high post, to players like Hannah Eggleston, Taylor and Kaitlyn Kollmorgen and Allaira Jones. Those four, as well as Ashley Faux, led the team in scoring, with Taylor Kollmorgen and Jones each posting a team-best 12 points. Kaitlyn Kollmorgen saw an increase in minutes and was active on both ends of the floor, with nine points and a team-high 13 rebounds.
Of the many positives Saturday’s contest provided, it gave Morefield a chance to give the young freshmen significant minutes, something that is not likely to happen once conference play gets underway. One of those freshmen that stood out was 5’10 post player Meagan Johnson. The Nacogdoches, Texas native shot 5-of-7 from the field, scoring 11 points and looked much more confident than in her last appearance on the floor against LeTourneau.
“When we first started practice, she came out playing very well, but then she had a lull there between Thanksgiving and now,” said Morefield of Johnson. “We talked to her this week, challenged her, told her, ‘Hey, here’s where you were at and here’s where you are right now. This is just an honest midway point assessment. And this is where we need you to be.’ I’ll tell you, the last two or three days of practice, she’s really been turning it on, after we had that talk. She responded very well.”
The team will have just four days to catch its breath before tipping off the conference slate in Richardson, Texas on Thursday, against a very good UT Dallas squad. The action begins at 5:30 p.m.
“No conference game is an easy game, because we have a target on our back,” Morefield told the media when talking about preparing for conference play. “We’re everyone’s big game. That’s where we’ve elevated the program to. We have to continue to do what we do, and focus on what makes us, us.”