Above photo of Kasey Jo Hinton by Luke Zayas/True To The Cru
BELTON, Texas- After giving up 81 points in Thursday’s win over Sul Ross State, UMHB head coach Mark Morefield made one thing clear. The defensive effort and intensity would improve.
That is exactly what transpired in Saturday’s 77-53 victory over Howard Payne, the 10th straight win for the Crusaders, who moved to 8-0 in ASC play. The Lady Jackets shot just 29 percent from the field, and the Cru forced 16 turnovers that led to 18 points.
“I thought we answered the call defensively of being locked in,” Morefield noted. “It’s a much different story defensively than from a couple nights ago when we played Sul Ross.”
With HPU shorthanded, bringing just eight players, the advantage in UMHB’s depth was evident early on, and perhaps no more than in the rebounding category. UMHB gathered 34 rebounds to HPU’s 18 in the first half, 17 of which were on the offensive end. That led to 18 second-chance points over the opening two quarters for the Cru, while the Lady Jackets did not score a second-chance bucket in the entire first half.
“Obviously offensive rebounding is crucial,” Morefield said. “We want to have those extra opportunities and second-chance points. It’s another 20 seconds to move the ball and get what we want offensively.”
From the onset, the Crusaders went to the post, getting the ball to Catherine Kaiser, Aja Holmes, and Kaitlyn Kollmorgen, against the HPU zone defense. Kaiser scored four of the Cru’s first six points, and Holmes tallied a team-high 15 points, while Kollmorgen added four points and seven rebounds.
“I’m a big believer in balance on offense,” Morefield said. “So having players like Aja, and Kaitlyn and Catherine is huge, because it gives us that balance to compliment our guards.”
A 7-0 run midway through the opening quarter gave UMHB a 13-6 advantage, and with the Crusaders playing high-effort defense, HPU was unable to counter. Bria Neal accounted for all eight of the Yellow Jackets’ first-quarter points as the Cru took a 19-8 lead after the first 10 minutes, with a Kaitlyn Kollmorgen floater giving UMHB its first double-digit advantage of the game.
The Cru outscored the visitors from Brownwood 20-9 in the second quarter, with forward Ashley Faux recording seven of those. Faux, who finished with 13 points, opened the period with a three-pointer, then connected on consecutive jumpers over the next two minutes as part of an 8-2 run that gave the Cru a commanding 27-14 advantage.
UMHB took a 39-17 lead into halftime, after holding HPU scoreless for the final 3:40 of the second quarter, and protected the significant advantage throughout the second half. With three road games on tap for the next two weeks, securing the win Saturday was crucial. UMHB currently sits atop the ASC standings and is the only undefeated team in conference play, at 8-0.
“First and foremost, you have to protect your home court,” Morefield said postgame. “The road is tough. In the past, we’ve been decent on the road, but you have to take care of business at home, knowing how hard the road is.”
An 11-6 run that was sparked by an Arieona Rosborough jumper 22 seconds into the second half gave UMHB a 50-24 advantage. The Cru led by as many as 35 points early in the fourth quarter, before HPU slightly cut the deficit with the game well in check.
UMHB resumes play on Thursday night in Marshall, Texas, facing ETBU at 5:30 p.m. CT. The Tigers are 9-2 on the season, and 5-1 in conference play.
Riley Zayas is the managing editor of True To The Cru. He can be emailed at email@example.com.