Above photo by Luke Zayas/True To The Cru
BELTON- The UMHB women’s basketball team had entered the fourth quarter trailing before. And the Cru had always found a way to come back and claim the victory.
But on Saturday afternoon, there was no fourth-quarter comeback. Instead there was a wake-up call, an “attention-getter”, as UMHB head coach Mark Morefield called it, as the 14th-ranked Crusaders struggled to score for the final three quarters and fell to No. 22 ETBU, 71-57, marking the team’s first loss since Nov. 26.
“The way we played Thursday is a microcosm of the way we played today,” Morefield said, noting the narrow victory over Belhaven two days prior. “It was just against a better team that is going to take advantage of mistakes. But they didn’t do anything we weren’t prepared for.”
In a high-scoring opening quarter, Ashley Faux tallied UMHB’s first eight points of the game on two three-pointers and a jump shot, helping the Cru earn an early 10-4 lead. But ETBU countered with nine points of its own, taking a 13-10 lead with under five minutes to play.
After the opening quarter, UMHB led 19-17, but that lead soon faded as the Crusader offense collapsed. A nine-minute scoring drought in the second quarter ensued, as ETBU’s defense limited every short-range scoring opportunity. The Cru finally got on the board with a Kaitlyn Kollmorgen free throw, and Lauren Baker added a jumper with 13 seconds until halftime, but by that point, the Tigers led 32-22.
“We talk about, ‘We can’t get rushed,’ but then we still play at a rushed pace sometimes,” Morefield said. “We have to understand that this is a game of runs. You’re not going to get it back in one shot. We started settling for long twos and threes.”
Try as they might, UMHB could not shake the offensive inconsistency. Shooting 34 percent in the second half did the Crusaders no favors as they attempted a comeback over the final 20 minutes. The Tigers continued to score, dominated in the rebounding game, and a slew of fouls did not help in the matter.
Everything needed to go right if UMHB was to overcome the double-digit deficit. Instead, everything seemed to go in the opposite direction.
A 9-1 scoring run from ETBU closed out the third quarter and left UMHB in a hole too deep as the fourth quarter began. The Cru did not score for the quarter’s first three minutes until Bethany McLeod’s jumper fell through with 6:59 remaining, cutting the deficit to 17, 60-43. Isolated scoring spurts throughout the quarter aided in the comeback bid, but it proved too great a hill to climb for even the ASC’s top team.
UMHB is now 21-3, entering the postseason. Here’s a closer look at the contest:
Forced turnovers demonstrated UMHB’s solid defensive ability: One of the few stats that UMHB had the advantage in was forced turnovers, tallying 19 takeaways to ETBU’s 15. While the Cru scored just three second-quarter points, they entered the locker room at halftime down by just 10, which was a testament to the turnovers forced on the defensive end and transition.
The timing of the loss: There is no perfect time for a loss, but falling to a quality team just before the conference tournament is something Morefield sees as a positive. The Cru already secured the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, and finished the regular season with an 18-1 conference record. More importantly, this was not a must-win game. But from here on out, every game will have the “win or go home” tag attached to it.
Morefield: “I remember hearing Roy Williams at a coaching clinic one year. It was the year he was at Kansas, they were the No. 1 seed, but had lost in the Sweet 16 or Elite Eight. They hadn’t lost a game at all, and he said, ‘I wish we would’ve lost sooner before it counted.’ What we’re going to make a big deal about is, ‘The things we’ve been telling you [we need to fix] for the last 10 games were what lost us this game.’”
What Needs Improvement
Staying consistent on the boards: A solid rebounding team throughout the better portion of this season, UMHB struggled in keeping the Tigers from tallying offensive rebounds. That led to 21 of ETBU’s points, and hampered the Cru’s ability to generate defensive stops into scoring on the offensive end, which was a major factor in the loss. ETBU outrebounded the Cru 50-32 overall, and 19-16 offensively.
Scouting report execution: Though ETBU’s talent and three-point shooting ability played into the Tigers’ win, Morefield said the opposition did nothing that he and his staff had not prepared the team for entering the contest. In his postgame meeting with his players, Morefield noted that the attention to detail and execution of the game plan will need to improve heading into the conference tournament.
Morefield: “We didn’t execute the scouting report. Hopefully we can have a little more attention to detail in how we handle postgame film.”
UMHB heads to Marshall, Texas for the ASC Tournament, set for Feb. 24-26. The Cru is the No. 1 seed, having won the regular season league title on Jan. 10. ETBU, as the tournament’s No. 2 seed, will host. The Crusaders battle Belhaven at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday.