Above photo by Olivia Champion/@byoliviarayn
BELTON, Texas- A strong defensive effort early translated into a 55 percent shooting percentage and 110-91 victory over Arlington Baptist on Saturday night for the UMHB men’s basketball team, who are ranked No. 12 in the nation by D3hoops.com.
The victory moved the Cru to 3-0 on the season, as head coach Clif Carroll’s team torched the nets, scoring 100 points for the second time this season.
“They’re a good offensive team,” Carroll said of ABU postgame. “They played a close game with Lubbock Christian last week and Lubbock Christian is the No. 1 team in D-II. We knew that [ABU] had a chance to play [really well], so I was proud of our energy defensively early on.
“I think when we made our run it was turning defense into offense, finding some easy shots. The offense came out and exploded, but it started with defense.”
Leading that offensive charge was guard Josiah Johnson, who converted on five straight shots midway through the second half, and finished with a team-high 40 points in 29 minutes of action. The Big Sandy, Texas native shot 15-of-22 from the field, 6-of-11 from behind the three-point arc, and swished home all four free throws he attempted. He added 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the year.
“Our team does a nice job of finding him in good spots,” Carroll said of Johnson’s high-scoring. “Josiah just has a knack for scoring. He’s got a special ability. He’s strong, and he’s quick and he’s got a quick release. If we can continue to get him the ball in areas where he can score, it makes us tough to beat.”
Ty Prince added 20 points, and Abilene Christian transfer Payton Brooks connected on three three-pointers early in the contest. Brooks’ first three of the day came on the Cru’s first possession, as he swished a good shot from the left corner, giving UMHB a lead it held until the final buzzer.
The Crusaders took a 69-30 lead into the half, thanks to a Johnson three-pointer, and opened the second half with a 40-point lead following a Kyle Wright three at the 19:30 mark. ABU did outscore UMHB 61-41 in the second half, but the Crusaders had all but sealed the win by that point, largely helped by shooting 48 percent from beyond the arc.
20 different players saw action for UMHB, nine of whom made their season debuts for the Cru. Wayland Baptist transfer Trace Richey scored four points in his first game as a Crusader, playing four minutes, and 6’7 freshman Gannon Parker tallied his first points with UMHB late in the game, spinning along the baseline for an excellent shot off the glass. Both Carson Hammond and Gibson Hearne did not suit up, and after the victory, Carroll noted that their injuries are nothing major, but with it so early in the year, the coaching staff is trying to be cautious.
“We got 20 guys in today, and we had three guys who had played [in previous games] who didn’t suit out tonight,” Carroll said. “Depth is good. It’s a double-edged sword. We have to find chemistry. We have to find rhythm. We’re still looking for that right mix in lineups and rotations, but today was good because we were able to get deep and had some guys make good plays.”
That depth will be critical as UMHB enters ASC play next Saturday against defending conference champ Ozarks. Having faced an array of opponents in non-conference action, Carroll has seen his squad improve, but knows Ozarks will not back down without a fight. The Eagles are 1-5 this season, their only win coming over Austin College, 96-94, last Saturday.
“We play all these games to get ready for conference play,” Carroll said. “Ozarks is the champion of our league right now. They won the conference tournament last year. We feel like that should be ours. We don’t make any bones about it. That’s where we’re trying to head. It’s important for us to come in here and really compete well.”