Behind a strong start, UMHB men’s basketball rolls over Hardin-Simmons

BELTON, Texas- A great offensive effort guided the UMHB men’s basketball team to a 91-65 victory over conference rival Hardin-Simmons on Saturday afternoon, as the Cru shot 55 percent from the field in the team’s sixth straight conference win.

With the win, UMHB remains the only undefeated team in the ASC with a 6-0 conference record, and holds sole possession of first play in the ASC West Division.

From the opening tip, it was obvious that both the home crowd and a well-prepared gameplan were going to guide the Cru to a win. Josiah Johnson knocked down a long three-pointer one minute into the game, spurring an unstoppable 16-2 scoring run. Playing near-perfect basketball, Johnson, Ty Prince, Gibson Hearne, Sam Reaves and Aedan Welch all stepped up with threes in the first half, as HSU failed to finish on several layups and fell behind quickly. By the 10 minute mark, the Cru led 23-6, and continuing to play above the rim, were narrowly outrebounding the Cowboys 16-15.

“We know one of the weaknesses that we had so far has been slow starts,” said Carroll postgame. “Having a quick start has been important to us and we felt like if we get out and get that first shot down, then we get going. We executed pretty well today.”

In a play that defined the direction of the first half, Hardin-Simmons’ Kyle Brennon broke away on a fast break. Prince was right behind him however, and swatted the ball away as Brennon tried to lay it off the glass, with the entire UMHB jumping onto its feet.

By the time the two teams headed to the locker room at the half, UMHB was in front comfortably, 45-23. If one was looking for a stat to tell the story of the first half, they would need to look no further than the shooting percentage, which showed UMHB shooting 54 percent for the first half, while HSU shot a dismal 23 percent.

The second half followed a similar pattern, though Hardin-Simmons had far from given up. Carroll said that was one of the main points he emphasized to his team at halftime, not relaxing despite the lofty lead.

“You saw that today, we relaxed, we lost our focus,” said Carroll. “You can talk about it all you want in the locker room, but until they grow up and figure out, ‘Hey, we really need to lock in here and duplicate the [first] half,’ that’s one of the things we need to learn. We need to come out playing the second half the way we played the first half today.”

The Cowboys mounted an 9-2 run to begin the second half. However, UMHB soon settled in, though HSU never abandoned the fight, and cut the deficit to 13 with just under six minutes left. But a Carson Hammond three from the corner followed by an excellent pass from Prince to Johnson which gave way to an easy layup sealed UMHB’s sixth straight conference win with just over four minutes to play. The second half was highlighted by a fast break from Prince, in which he raced up the court alone against three HSU defenders. That didn’t stop him from getting a reverse layup to fall in though, as he drew the foul. He completed the three-point play seconds later with a free throw, giving UMHB a 20-plus point lead once again, 82-60,

In a contest marked by fast-paced play, Carroll used a deep bench to his advantage. It seemed that the Cru never got tired, sprinting up and down the court with the Crusader faithful urging them on, and scored 14 fast-break points in the first 20 minutes of play.

Winning with such a high score has become something to be expected from the Cru this season, as the team is led by a variety of players, all of whom can score from anywhere on the floor.

“We want to be as talented as we can and still hold our core beliefs as a team,” said Carroll. “When you have guys like Josiah and Ty who can just fill it up, it makes my job a lot easier. I don’t have to worry as much about scheming things, they just happen on their own. We have a lot of players who can score, but we can’t be a team that scores 100 points but gives up 110.”

Johnson had yet another high-caliber performance, this time putting 34 points on the board, his eighth game this season with 30 or more points. In a double-double effort, he added 12 rebounds to go along with six assists, five steals and three blocks.

Joining him in double figures was Prince, who had 22 points, one shy of his season-high, and 12 rebounds. Hearne posted a career-high 11 points, shooting four-of-seven from the field.

Next up is a homecoming for Carroll, as the Cru face his former team, Sul Ross State, in Alpine, Texas, on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. CT.

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