Above photo of Bethany McLeod by Luke Zayas/True To The Cru
AUSTIN- Bethany McLeod’s late-game steals are beginning to be a regular occurrence.
After coming up with three key steals in the fourth quarter of last Thursday’s 72-70 overtime victory at 14th-ranked East Texas Baptist, the guard helped the UMHB women’s basketball team to its 12th consecutive victory Tuesday night.
With under 20 seconds remaining, and UMHB leading by five, McLeod stole a Concordia pass, and took it up the floor for a layup, sealing UMHB’s 67-58 ASC road win over the Tornadoes.
“Obviously she has a great feel for deflections,” UMHB head coach Mark Morefield said of McLeod’s defensive ability. “She came up with a big one tonight to cap it off with an ‘and-one’ after a great steal and a great finish.”
McLeod shot an impressive 75 percent from the field, scoring a team-best 17 points, and added a season-high four steals. That performance came on the heels of a spectacular showing against ETBU, in which she came up with a similar clutch play with 19 seconds in the final quarter, and gave UMHB its first lead of the game.
“Here’s a player who after games will break her own film down,” Morefield said of McLeod. “She’ll ask questions and want to sit down with us and go over it. She has a strong desire to get better.”
On Tuesday night, led by McLeod’s shooting, the Crusader offense took just over two minutes to find traction in the first quarter, countering a three-pointer from Concordia’s Kennedy Donovan with a McLeod three on its next possession. That sparked a 10-0 run, which led to a 18-11 advantage after the first 10 minutes.
With 9:12 in the second quarter, UMHB extended its lead to double digits for the first time on consecutive free throws from Ashley Faux. But it was shortly after that point that the Cru’s rhythm began fading. Concordia seized the opportunity, mounting a 15-4 run of its own that was capped by Havyn Perez’s three-pointer with three seconds left in the quarter, as the Tornadoes took a 32-29 lead into halftime. Concordia shot 62 percent from the field in the period, connecting on eight of 13 attempts, in addition to four free throws, as UMHB’s defense struggled in challenging its opponent’s mid-range shots.
“Defensively, our effort wasn’t very good, and we weren’t moving the ball,” Morefield said of the second quarter performance. “We weren’t making the right plays on both sides of the ball and it showed by giving up 62 percent to them and 21 points.
“The flip side of that was, [Concordia] played tremendous in that second quarter, we didn’t play our best basketball and yet we were only down three.”
That three-point deficit did not hold for long. Whatever held the Cru back in the second quarter was no longer present in the third, as the nation’s No. 24 team responded by outscoring Concordia 23-14 in the third. Five minutes into the second half, the score was tied on the second of two made free throws from post Catherine Kaiser, and Alexia Martin’s jumper with 4:36 remaining returned the lead to UMHB.
“We shot over 60 percent in the third quarter and responded to the issues we talked about at halftime,” Morefield noted.
He added that a major factor in the difference between the second and third quarters was found in the clock stoppages, which occurred more often than usual in the second, and halted what momentum the Cru might have held.
“We had a lot of clock stoppages in the first half,” Morefield said. “There were a couple times we were in a flow, [and the clock was then stopped]. I remember one particular time, we were in transition and had a nice pitch-ahead pass to Olivia [Champion], probably for a wide open layup, and then they stop the clock, because of a clock issue. That can be hard.”
After dealing with a cancelation of the Belhaven game on Saturday afternoon just before tip-off due to Covid protocols, and traveling 1,056 miles within the last week, Morefield said he felt the Crusaders may have been “skittish” early on in the contest, especially with Saturday’s cancelation in the back of their minds.
“I told thBehinde team this after the game, that after what happened on Saturday, there’s probably a little skittishness, especially for some of the returners from last year,” Morefield said. “They’re now thinking, ‘Are we going to play?’, ‘Are we going down here for nothing?’
I said, ‘From this point on, we’re not going to worry about if the next game is going to be canceled. You’re mindset has to be, ‘You’re playing this game until further notice, and we’re going to approach this game the way we have the last 15.’”
UMHB is now 13-2 on the year, and entered the D3hoops.com rankings for the first time this season on Monday. The Cru tip-off against Ozarks Thursday night at 5:30 p.m. CT in Clarksville, Arkansas.
“We cannot look back,” Morefield said. ‘We have to look ahead at what’s next. We’ve got to keep it rolling.”