BELTON, Texas- As the weather outside dropped below freezing, inside the Mayborn Campus Center, the UMHB women’s basketball team also found itself on cold shooting spurts, as No. 2 ETBU pulled out a 62-48 win in Belton on Saturday afternoon.
The loss was UMHB’s fourth straight, and dropped the Cru to 8-7 overall and 4-6 in conference play.
As is the case in most games between talented teams in conference action, neither was able to find many open shots in the first half, as UMHB shot just 20 percent. ETBU did not fare much better, but got a few three-pointers to fall early, and headed to the break shooting 43 percent. The Tigers were powered by a 9-0 run to close out the half, holding a 28-14 lead.
“That’s the thing we were just talking about,” said UMHB head coach Mark Morefield postgame, referring to his team’s offense. “It is not that we’re taking bad shots, shots just aren’t falling. I thought we were getting some great looks, looks at the rim, shots just aren’t falling. I think that’s the biggest thing.”
Though the visitors from Marshall tried to go to their bread-and-butter from the start, trying to shoot from outside and get the ball down low in the post, UMHB clearly understood Morefield’s gameplan and defended well, daring its opponents to try to drive to the lane.
Perhaps the play of the first half for the Cru came off of a miss. After freshman guard Cheyanne Bonilla shanked a three-point attempt to the left, forward Hannah Eggleston leapt out of bounds, hovering above the baseline, as she tossed a no-look pass to forward Allaira Jones, who was standing right under the basket. Jones took the ball, faking out a defender as she got the layup to go.
With shots continuously not falling as the second half got underway, ETBU pulled away in the third quarter, extending the lead to 16 twice. But the Crusaders never abandoned the fight, playing not like they were trailing but instead playing like it was a tied ballgame. With that mentality, the Cru slowly chipped away at the lead, forcing turnovers and playing a brand of basketball that Morefield had been preaching all season. There was not a loose ball that wasn’t fought for, a shot that was not contested, or a fast break that didn’t feature one, two, or even three Crusaders hot in pursuit.
“There was no question we played hard,” remarked Morefield.
In a turning point with just 1:51 left in the game, Elliot pulled down an offensive rebound and then put up a shot, getting the shot to fall. She was fouled on the play, and got the ensuing free throw to go, cutting the lead to single digits, 48-57, for the first time since the second quarter.
That was the closest the Cru would get, though, as the Tigers held onto to the lead and prevailed, moving up to 19-0 on the season.
In perhaps a moment that defined the game for UMHB, McLeod had a wide open look with just under 10 seconds to play, but put it up to strong as the ball bounced on the rim and fell right into the hands of a ETBU defender. McLeod did not even chase down the ballhandler. It was over, the Cru had fallen. Though UMHB fought hard, the Crusaders’ strength to battle back slowly lessened each time the Tigers went down the court and scored.
While losing four straight is not ever something a coach wants to see, Morefield felt it was simply another step, another test, for this young squad, and was encouraged by the defensive effort.
“I feel that we have talent, and that we’re doing things on the defensive end,” said Morefield. “I thought, from a defensive standpoint, yeah, we’re going to give up some easy shots because we were pressing in the third quarter, but we held them to 12 points under their total average, and did what we wanted to do. The unfortunate part is that basketball is a scoring game and I haven’t seen many basketball games where the score is 10-0. We have to go down, get stops and convert those into points.”
Olivia Champion earned another start, and proved she belonged the lineup, leading the team with 10 points. Brooke Elliot added eight. Taylor Kollmorgen went just 1-of-10 shooting from the field, but led the team in rebounds with nine.
Next up for UMHB is a rematch in Belton with Sul Ross State, which is set to tip-off at 5:30 p.m. CT on Thursday. The last time the two teams met in Alpine, Sul Ross earned a 55-46 victory.