Above photo by Olivia Champion/@byoliviarayn
BELTON, Texas- Following its first loss of the season on Saturday at Hardin-Simmons, the UMHB men’s basketball team demonstrated its ability to close out a game, converting on all five free throw opportunities in the final minute to defeat UT-Dallas, 79-69.
It moved the Crusaders, who are ranked No. 19 in the country by D3hoops.com, to 3-1 in ASC play and 6-1 overall, while the Comets fell to 6-2 on the year and suffered their first conference loss.
Though competitive over both halves, UMHB outscored its opponent in each 20-minute period, led by Josiah Johnson, who tallied 22 points, and Luke Feely, who had a breakout performance with 19 points on the evening.
UTD got out to an early 6-2 lead, as both teams struggled to find an offensive rhythm in the first half. Solid defense contributed to that number as well, as a total of eight steals were recorded in the first half, five of which gave UMHB possession. The Cru managed to score just two points over the game’s first four minutes, but quickly found a way to take its first lead of the contest, with a 5-2 run that put UMHB up 9-8, on a Johnson three-pointer. That is not where the newfound offensive momentum slowed, however. In fact, it seemed to increase, as it turned into a 13-5 run that featured two additional threes, as the Crusaders gained a 17-11 advantage.
The Comets soon fought back with a run of their own, cutting the margin to a single point, 17-16, with 11:12 to play in the first half, before taking an 18-17 lead. That was the path the next 10 minutes took, with UTD cutting the deficit to one, and even tying it one occasion, before UMHB found a way to separate the margin.
A 34-31 lead was held by the Crusaders at halftime, but UTD retook the advantage, making it 40-37 with 18:07 to play on three consecutive three-pointers from the Pruitt brothers, Kameron and Kolton. Carson Hammond had two threes of his own during that stretch, the latter of which tied the contest at 40 following Kameron Pruitt’s second triple. The Comets led until the 7:42 mark of the second half, when Ty Prince was fouled pulling down an offensive rebound. The junior calmly sank both free throws, giving UMHB it’s first lead in over 12 minutes, 56-54. With 2:38 to play, UMHB still led, though UTD made it a one-possession game on Donovon Souter’s three-pointer.
When Feely made his seventh attempt from the field with 1:01 to play, making it a nine-point game, UTD had no option to resort to fouling in an attempt to regain possession. It was a strategy the Crusaders calmly welcomed, scoring on each of their five opportunities at the free-throw line in order to pull away for the 10-point win.
UMHB next faces LeTourneau on Saturday at 3 p.m. CT. That contest will be played in Belton. The YellowJackets sit atop the conference standings with a flawless 8-0 overall record, and a 4-0 mark in ASC play. Andrew Eberhardt is averaging 19.6 points per game for LETU.