Above photo by Luke Zayas/True To The Cru
MARSHALL, Texas- The resilience of the UMHB women’s basketball team was tested on Thursday night, and the Cru responded with near-perfect late-game execution.
With the clock ticking down against No. 14 ETBU, the Crusaders scored nine points in the span of the final 2:07 of the fourth quarter, sending the contest into overtime, and eventually winning, 72-70, on a short-range jumper from freshman guard Arieona Rosborough.
“I think the biggest thing is the resilience of this team,” UMHB head coach Mark Morefield said postgame. “To win, on the road, in a good environment, and chip away [at ETBU’s lead was great].
“I’m super proud of these girls, and what they do day-in and day-out. To beat Hardin-Simmons at Hardin-Simmons, and beat ETBU here, those are two tough environments. I think it says a lot about our team.”
The Crusaders now boast wins over the ASC’s three ranked teams; No. 14 ETBU, No. 19 Hardin-Simmons and No. 24 UT-Dallas. UMHB holds a 9-0 record in ASC play, leading the conference standings, and is a frontrunner for a Top 25 ranking next Monday.
In a back-and-forth contest, one thing remained the same for much of the first 40 minutes: ETBU held the lead. The Tigers jumped out to a 21-4 advantage in the first quarter, and maintained that lead until the 30-second mark of the fourth, when Rosborough’s layup tied the score at 57 all. With the defense playing at a high level, ETBU’s Taylor Singleton turned the ball over on the other end, as Bethany McLeod grabbed the loose ball for the Cru, taking it upcourt with Singleton in hot pursuit. But the senior managed to get the layup off in time, as it fell through with 15 seconds left, giving UMHB its first lead of the game.
“Bethany has a great sense for passing lanes,” Morefield said. “Those are plays she’s made over and over in crucial moments. Coming down the stretch [tonight], she shot that passing lane, used her length, got a hand on the ball and was able to track it down.
“That was the game-winning play, to kind of seal it for us with that layup. That’s senior leadership.”
But ETBU had not shown its full hand either, running an exceptional play with under five seconds that culminated in Mallory Stephens’ jumper, which sent it into overtime. Faced with the challenge of battling the Tigers for another five minutes, UMHB answered the call, forcing three turnovers, and matching each of ETBU’s three made shots with a bucket of its own. Crusader forward Olivia Champion opened the extra period with a three-pointer 28 seconds in, which was matched by Hanna Hudson’s three for the Tigers. It continued in that pattern, with Ashley Faux connecting on a three-pointer for the Cru, and Rosborough hitting two key jumpers, which kept UMHB in front, and victorious, in Marshall.
For as strong of a showing as the contest ended up being for the Cru, it was the other way around in the first quarter, beginning with the opening tip. McLeod was called for a foul moments after the tip-off, and the Tigers scored six of the first eight points of the game, holding UMHB scoreless for over six minutes before a Rosborough layup broke the cold streak.
Still, it was 21-8 in favor of ETBU at the end of the first 10 minutes, though the Cru outscored them in the second and fourth quarters, with both teams tallying 15 points apiece in the third quarter. Trailing 32-25 at halftime, Morefield called his team to action, imploring the Crusaders to focus less on the challenging environment inside Ornelas Gym, and more on maintaining the philosophy that had gotten UMHB to this point.
“The thing we really hit home on, was that we hadn’t played our style of basketball,” Morefield said. “We weren’t playing high IQ basketball. If we wanted to control the pace, we had to be more in-tune defensively.”
For much of the first half, ETBU relied on getting the ball into the paint on passes from the wing. The Tigers scored 20 points in the paint over the first two quarters, but converted on a total of just four shots in the paint in the second half. And that was with posts Kaitlyn Kollmorgen and Aja Holmes both in foul trouble.
“This team has a good feel from a basketball IQ standpoint,” Morefield said. “If we say, ‘You’re in, but you have four fouls,’ they understand and can quickly change their defensive game to get the result we want. They change how they might be guarding, but can still force someone right or left. I think that’s a testament to the team. They can adjust on the fly very well.”
The Crusaders have now won 11 straight contests. Faux led the scoring, with 15 points, and Rosborough contributed with 14, aslo pulling down a team-best nine rebounds. McLeod led the Cru in both assists, four, and steals, three.
UMHB’s road trip east is far from over. In fact, the team is set to travel nearly 260 more miles for Saturday’s 1 p.m. CT matchup at Belhaven, in Jackson, Mississippi. Belhaven is 7-4 on the year.