ABILENE, Texas- A lethal three-point shooting attack was just what the UMHB men’s basketball team needed, as the Cru earned its third straight conference win on Thursday, beating Hardin-Simmons by a score of 77-67.
Now 3-0 in ASC play, the Crusaders are alone atop the West Division standings, and moved to 6-3 on the season. It was the first conference game UMHB had played on the road, after defeating Louisiana College and Belhaven last week in Belton.
The main storyline entering the contest for UMHB was the reinforcements that had arrived, as senior guard Byrale Carter and Centenary transfer Ty Prince saw the court for the first time this season. Both had been unavailable throughout non-conference play and the Cru’s first two games of conference action. They each made a huge impact in their season debuts, as Carter posted a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds, while Prince scored 10 points and pulled down eight rebounds in 21 minutes of action, leaving the game with just over a minute to play after fouling out.
With Prince and Carter back in action, they join an already dangerous UMHB offense. Guard Josiah Johnson still leads the nation in points per game with 31.5 points per game (min. two games played), and guard Carson Hammond, who did not have to worry about handling the ball, demonstrated his sharpshooting ability, knocking down two threes, including one from beyond NBA-range late in the second half. Johnson scored 13 points, while Hammond chipped in with 14. Senior forward Aedan Welch, who proved to be a force both on the perimeter and in the post, came off the bench to score 16 points.
The contest was truly a tale of two halves. Hardin-Simmons led for the entire first half, and held a 37-30 advantage at the midway point. Something clicked for head coach Clif Carroll’s squad from Belton in the second half, though, as the Cru came out of halftime on an 8-0 scoring run. That gave way to UMHB’s first lead of the game, 44-42, which came on a Carter three-pointer with 13:22 left. The contest remained deadlocked at 44 points apiece for the next minute, before Johnson swished a free-throw to give the Cru the lead, 45-44. The Crusaders never looked back, and never surrendered the lead, despite multiple attempts from the Cowboys to the close the gap late in the second half.
Throughout the final six minutes, UMHB knocked down three three-pointers, two of which came from Welch. Not only did the Cru shoot 48 percent from the field in the victory, but also was 15-of-21 from the free-throw line. Though the rebound battle finished in a tie, with both teams pulling down 39 apiece, and HSU forced 20 turnovers, UMHB was anchored by its deep bench, which scored 32 of its points.
Really, the “bench” was made up of Hammond and Welch, at least when it came to scoring. Those two, who had previously started every contest, but began the game on the bench with the additions of Carter and Prince, scored 30 of those points.
The win is yet another step in Carroll’s goal for his team to finish ASC play undefeated. However, there is little time to enjoy the victory, as McMurry is set to take on the Cru this Saturday in Abilene. Tip off is set for 3 p.m. CT.