Above photo of Josiah Johnson by Russell Marwitz/True To The Cru
RICHARDSON- UMHB guard Josiah Johnson hit the career 1,000-point mark, and the Crusader men’s basketball team maintained its position as the first-place team in the ASC standings on Sunday evening, rolling to an 85-72 victory over UT-Dallas.
The margin of victory was much larger than what the final score revealed, as the Cru led by as many as 31 points in the second half, before the Comets chipped away at the advantage in the final minutes.
Entering the contest, Johnson, a junior, was just five points away from reaching the career milestone, and achieved the feat just over 10 minutes into the contest, when he drained a three-pointer from the top of the arc. That broke a 19-19 tie, and two free throws from him on the Cru’s following possession extended the lead to 24-19 with 8:58 in the first half.
“It was definitely fun,” Johnson said postgame. “My coaches and teammates trust me with the green light so I just try and be aggressive when I can. And we just kept trying to get into gaps. Everytime we had multiple sides on offense we got what we wanted.”
Johnson’s 35-foot three-pointer as time expired in the first half gave the Cru a 41-30 lead. A 15-4 scoring run in the first five minutes of the second half was enough to seal the victory as UMHB took a 56-34 advantage.
Johnson led the Cru with 26 points and Ty Prince added 14. 17 players saw action for UMHB, 13 of whom played 10 minutes or more.
With UMHB now 16-2 on the year, here’s a closer look at tonight’s win, with insight from UMHB head coach Clif Carroll:
What Went Well
Winning the battle on the boards: One of the things that kept UTD in the game the last time the teams played in Belton was rebounding. But Sunday night, UMHB outrebounded the Comets 44-30, 17 of those on the offensive end. That led to 17 second-chance points, including Nathan Stolz’s three-pointer at the 11:58 mark that followed Gibson Hearne’s offensive rebound and tied the game at 17 apiece. Johnson tallied a team-high nine rebounds, and Luke Feely added five.
Carroll: “We’ve been a pretty good offensive rebounding team all year. That was one of the things Dallas did to keep the game close in Belton; they offensive rebounded and kept us off the boards. We knew if we could flip that, it’d give us a chance to win.”
Slow start did not phase the nation’s No. 18 team: UTD came out of the gate strong, scoring five points in the first minute. However, a Carson Hammond three-pointer put UMHB on the board and three free throws from Kyle Wright on the next possession put the Cru up 6-5, and from that point on, the Comets never led by more than three points. Unlike in past contests, the Crusaders stuck to the game plan, and it paid dividends down the stretch as UTD struggled in its defense.
Carroll: “We didn’t come out very aggressive. We let them hit us in the mouth first. But as the first media timeout we composed ourselves, and figured some things out. We finally got them under control and got a 10-point lead.”
Superior defense headlined the second half: Though the latter part of the second half saw UTD make a 13-6 run and cut the UMHB lead to as few as 10 points, the Crusader defense was tremendous in the early part of the final period, Carroll said. The Comets were held to just nine points in the first 10 minutes of the second half, and shot a mere three-for-11 from the field in that stretch.
Carroll: “In the second half defensively, we were so active. We forced them out of their spots, wouldn’t let them get into their rhythm offensively and created some turnovers and capitalized on them. I’m really happy about that.”
In a battle between the ASC’s top two teams, UMHB travels to LeTourneau on Monday at 6 p.m. CT. The Yellowjackets are a half-game behind the Cru in the ASC standings, with a 16-3 overall record, and an 11-3 mark in conference play. LeTourneau defeated Concordia 85-71 Sunday afternoon.
Carroll: “This is what you have to do if you want to win tournaments. You’re going to have to play back-to-back. We talk about our depth being good, and different guys being able to step up, so it will be a test tomorrow.”
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