Above photo of Ty Prince by Olivia Champion/@byoliviarayn
LAS VEGAS- Entering Thursday’s matchup with Saint Mary’s (Minn.), UMHB head coach Clif Carroll was confident his team would find a way to make shots. The true question was if the Crusaders could get enough stops on the defensive end.
When the final buzzer sounded, UMHB had not only limited the Cardinals to shooting 35 percent from the field, but also forced 12 turnovers, as the Cru earned its second victory in the final game of the D3hoops.com Classic, 84-64.
“I think defensively, we showed a lot of good signs this week,” Carroll said postgame. “We made a few small tweaks scheme-wise, but we held a very good offensive team to well below their average today.
“[Our guys] were great. They were troopers. They were tough. They really did a nice job today of moving the ball and finding better shots.”
Against Pacific Lutheran on Wednesday night, it took a late three-pointer from Josiah Johnson to seal the 56-53 win. No such late-game heroics were necessary Thursday, however, as the Cru took a nine-point lead into halftime, and opened the second-half with consecutive layups from Gibson Hearne and Johnson. Saint Mary’s was held without a field goal for the final 5:44 of the contest while UMHB mounted an 11-1 run.
“The best part of ending the game the way we did, was that we got everyone in the game,” Carroll said. “We took some of our guys who hadn’t played in a while, and don’t get a lot of minutes, and they came in and played great defense. I’m encouraged by what we saw out here in Vegas.”
But even before the game’s final minutes approached, the Crusaders had established a commanding lead that stemmed from two significant first-half scoring runs. A 10-2 spurt midway through the first 20 minutes of play gave UMHB an 18-9 lead, highlighted by threes from Johnson and freshman Braedyn Dawes.
Dawes, who finished with five points, was at the center of another critical spurt with a little over five minutes remaining in the opening half, when he laid the ball in on a fast-break to widen the margin to 11. It ignited an 11-0 run over the next two minutes, as Saint Mary’s had no answer for the Crusader offense. Carson Hammond hit a long three, then followed it up with a driving layup on the next possession. Within moments, UMHB held a 36-18 advantage.
“We did a couple mental exercises today and got into some mental reps,” Carroll said, noting that the 46 percent mark from three-point range was the first time his squad shot better than 33 percent since Nov. 27. “I don’t know if that helped, but it had good results.”
Saint Mary’s did all it could to overcome the 18-point deficit, even cutting the lead to single digits with a Owen Ziegler three-pointer as part of a 13-2 run just before the half. For a minute, the Crusaders appeared stunned, but were able to refocus at halftime and extend the lead to as many as 13 points in the opening minutes of the second half.
“We have to get more mature,” Carroll said. “We put that [11-0] run out, held them to 18 points with five minutes to go in the half, we’re feeling good, and then they take a timeout and score. We need to double-down on them, to use a Vegas term. We can’t let them come back.
“A sign of a team that is great is getting to that point [where we don’t let them come back]. To be great, we have to finish it. That’s where we have to get better.”
UMHB’s lead was never less than eight over the final 20 minutes, and the Cru managed to put it away late with superior defense. The Cardinals missed their last nine shots, all of which were closely contested by the Crusaders.
After hitting three key three-pointers down the stretch Wednesday, Johnson’s play was again critical in the team’s second win in the span of 24 hours. He received All-Tournament honors following a 25-point, three-rebound performance, and converted on five of 11 three-point attempts.
Luke Feely also contributed in a big way, posting his third double-double of the year with an even 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The Crusaders resume ASC play against rival Concordia (TX) in Belton on Jan. 3. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. at the Mayborn Campus Center. Concordia holds a 6-3 record, and is 3-2 in conference play.
“The toughness of the kids showed through,” Carroll said. “This could’ve been a game where we came in with dead legs, tired, and feeling sorry for ourselves since we didn’t play well yesterday. My hat’s off to the guys. We played pretty well today.”
|D3hoops.com Classic 2021||1||2||F|
|Saint Mary’s (Minn)||31||33||64|