Above photo by Luke Zayas/True To The Cru
BELTON- Strong from short-range, the UMHB men’s basketball team won the rebounding battle, and the game itself Saturday afternoon.
The Cru, ranked No. 21 in the nation, defeated McMurry 93-75 at the Mayborn Campus in large part due to its 54 rebounds and 54 points in the paint, which paved the way to the team’s third consecutive victory.
“McMurry wanted to come out today and play more of an up-and-down style and we just said, ‘Ok, let’s go do it’,” UMHB head coach Clif Carroll said. “They came out and scored seven points in the first two minutes, and then we clamped down, took our lead and kept on the rest of the way.”
In a fast-paced first half, the opponents exchanged buckets from the onset, combining for 14 points over the first two minutes, with the game tied at seven apiece at the 18:00 mark. But once UMHB began working the ball to the inside, the Cru took the lead, and led from the 13:12 mark of the first half until the final buzzer. That lead was gained on Carson Hammond’s three-pointer from the right corner, which put UMHB in front 16-13.
That ignited a 17-4 scoring run, as the Cru built a significant advantage that was widened to 17 points by halftime. With just over two seconds remaining in the first half, UMHB guard Kyle Wright deflected McMurry’s inbounds pass and did not hesitate, banking a 35-footer off the backboard at the buzzer.
UMHB mounted an eight-point run midway through the second half, which led to a 26-point lead at the 6:11 mark, its largest of the game.
UMHB is now 15-2 on the year, and 10-2 in ASC play.
Here’s a closer look at how the game played out Saturday afternoon:
What Went Well
Balanced attack proves key: The Cru finished with five players in double figures, led by Josiah Johnson, who had 22 points and finished five points shy of the career 1,000 point mark. The offensive balance challenged McMurry’s defense from the onset, opening up opportunities for UMHB’s three-point attempts and short-range shots. The Crusaders shot 56 percent from the field in the first half, with 34 points in the paint.
Carroll: “We’re still trying to figure it out. It’s been a real process. You think, ‘Coach, you have all year.’ But when you have this many new guys, and you start practice on Oct. 15, it takes a long time to develop chemistry.”
Dominance on the glass: Outrebounding the Warhawks 54-27, and 30-14 in the first half, UMHB had tremendous success on the boards. And as Carroll noted postgame, that was without a traditional post player on the floor. But the athleticism of the lineup, and an aggressive mentality helped the Cru take away a number of McMurry’s second-chance opportunities, holding the Warhawks to just two offensive rebounds in the opening half, and a total of 11 for the game. With 16:49 in the second half, Prince rebounded his own miss and laid the ball in, extending the margin back to 20 points. DJ Kane did the same thing two minutes later, which marked his only points of the second half.
Carroll: “The best way to slow down a team that wants to play high possessions like that is to make them take the ball out of the net. We placed an emphasis on offensive rebounding, talked about it, and we had 18 offensive rebounds today. That was a nice turnaround from getting dominated on the boards on Thursday against Hardin-Simmons.”
Finding scoring chances at the rim: Those two second-half scores were a microcosm of the Cru’s tremendous short-range scoring ability, as 54 paint points marked the highest performance since the Jan. 3 win over Concordia (TX). In the midst of the 17-4 first half run, 10 of UMHB’s points came in the paint. Then, with under five minutes to play in the contest, McMurry drained back-to-back threes and added a jumper for an 11-0 run, before Hammond found Wright under the basket, and UMHB added to its paint point total with an easy layup at the rim.
Carroll: “This team is multi-talented. The way that we can find ways to get to the rim, and score around the rim is pretty impressive.”
With Belhaven’s upset of LeTourneau Saturday afternoon, Thursday night’s duel will be a battle atop the ASC standings. UMHB, now in sole possession of the conference standings lead, travels to LeTourneau, who is now 9-3 in ASC play. Following that contest, which tips off at 7:30 p.m., UMHB battles UT-Dallas, who is just behind the Crusaders and Yellowjackets in the conference standings.
Carroll: “That’s a tough gym to play in. They’ll have a lot of students there. We have to come ready to play. LeTourneau is a team that is fighting for a championship.”