Above photo by Luke Zayas/True To The Cru
CLARKSVILLE, Ark.- For the second time this week, the UMHB women’s basketball team found itself trailing at halftime. And for the second time this week, the Cru responded with a strong third quarter en route to victory.
When Ozarks’ McKenzie Greeson capped the second quarter with a three-pointer, giving the Eagles a 35-33 lead at halftime, the team convened at halftime. Head coach Mark Morefield focused on imploring his team “to do the little things” right, especially on the defensive end.
“The biggest thing that was driven home at halftime was, ‘We need to pay attention to the details,’” Morefield said postgame. “‘We have to do the little things. Not the big things, the little things.’ We had not done that in any form or fashion on the defensive end.”
That sparked a 6-0 run coming out of the break. Ashley Faux hit a jumper. Kasey Jo Hinton added three free throws. And in the span of 2:13, UMHB led 41-35. Though that lead was stretched, slimmed, and challenged by Ozarks, it was the Crusaders, ranked 24th in the nation by D3hoops.com, who emerged with a narrow 73-67 win.
In that halftime conversation, the Cru was faced with more than just the idea of accepting a loss. A double-digit winning streak was on the line, as was a perfect record in conference play. But in the six-point victory, even with the downside of allowing the Eagles a 53 percent mark from the field and the bench contributing just 16 points, the Crusaders earned their 13th straight win, and moved to 11-0 in ASC play.
Though the defense struggled at times in the first half, UMHB’s ball pressure early forced Ozarks into five turnovers in the first six minutes, and the visitors from Belton established an early 10-2 advantage. Faux and post Kaitlyn Kollmorgen combined for all 10 of those points, though it was Bethany McLeod who soon made her scoring presence known when Ozarks countered with a 10-0 run of its own, taking the lead. McLeod’s layup with 3:06 left in the opening quarter tied the score and broke a scoring drought of nearly three minutes.
Between Kollmorgen’s play in the paint-the sophomore scored nine points and had four rebounds in the first half-and an overall solid execution of the offense, UMHB led 19-15 after 10 minutes, but the Eagles soon responded, and the lead changed hands seven times before the end of the second quarter.
“It wasn’t a matter of adjustments,” UMHB head coach Mark Morefield said. “It was a matter of not executing details and the scouting report. We had a lot of scouting errors. Breakdowns on help-side defense, and how we wanted to defend ball screens.
“So it really wasn’t anything that they were doing. It was more or less attributed to us not being able to get the job done defensively.”
Morefield also credited Ozarks for its above-average shooting, as the Eagles came into the game shooting 28 percent from three-point range, but made seven-of-11 attempts beyond the arc.
“Give them credit, they shot the lights out,” Morefield noted postgame. “They did a tremendous job of shooting the ball tonight.”
True to its style of play, the Ozarks defense maintained a consistent presence on the perimeter for the game’s entirety; UMHB did not make one of its six three-point shots in the first half. That percentage improved over the next 20 minutes, with the Cru converting on three of four attempts from beyond the arc, though the Eagles limited those opportunities. Instead, Morefield’s team was forced to work on its inside game, getting the ball into the post or driving to the lane for a layup, as McLeod did a number of times, finishing with 23 points.
The Cru outscored Ozarks 23-13 in the third quarter, enough to establish an eight-point lead entering the fourth. McLeod scored twice in the first 1:32 of the final quarter on fast breaks, from that point on, UMHB was in control. With the Cru leading by six with 40 seconds left, Ozarks missed consecutive opportunities at the rim before Kollmorgen pulled down her seventh rebound of the day, which all but sealed UMHB’s third straight road win.
With a week to prepare for what is anticipated to be a Top 25 showdown next Thursday in Belton, as UMHB is No. 24 and Hardin-Simmons is ranked No. 17, Morefield noted an expectation to see more from his post players. Kollmorgen finished with 11 points, seven rebounds and three steals, but Catherine Kaiser played just two minutes and Aja Holmes finished with five points in 12 minutes of action.
“We need those three to produce on a regular basis,” Morefield said, adding that Kollmorgen played extremely well, but he wants to see more from the trio as a whole. “We need those three to be the players that we know they are, and what they can accomplish.”
UMHB tips off against Hardin-Simmons at 5:30 p.m. CT on Jan. 27 in Belton. The Cru is now 13-2 on the year, while Ozarks dropped to 3-5 in ASC play.