Above photo by Luke Zayas/True To The Cru
BELTON- There was no shortage of strong shooting in the regular season finale on Saturday afternoon at the Mayborn Center, as the ninth-ranked UMHB men’s basketball team edged past ETBU, 94-90.
Both teams finished with shooting percentages above 56 percent, torching the nets for a combined 99 points in the second half, as UMHB, the ASC’s regular season champ, moved to 22-2 on the year.
Fast pace and tremendous shooting headliend the opening half, as UMHB took a 43-42 advantage into halftime. ETBU’s Jayden Williams scored the game’s first points on a three-pointer 19 seconds in, just before Josiah Johnson countered with a three of his own for the Cru. With 14:04 remaining in the period, the Tigers took back the advantage, and went up 15-12, though UMHB’s competitive fire burst out seconds later. A Johnson jumper was the start of an 8-0 run that earned the Crusaders a lead they held for the next 10 minutes.
The second half was much of the same. The lead changed hands twice, as both squads continued scoring at a rapid rate. The Cru and Tigers each tallied points on their first two possessions of the period,
With 3:09 left, the Tigers made two free throws, cutting the deficit to four, and as UMHB brought the ball upcourt, one of the ETBU assistants called out, ‘C’mon! Let’s get a stop.’ It had been the story of the half for the visitors, who cut the UMHB lead to four points several times in the second half, but were unable to prevent the Crusaders from finding scoring opportunities of their own. As it turned out, that stop never came. The Tigers sent UMHB’s Luke Feely to the line, who extended the lead back to six with two free throws, and as the clock ticked down, the Cru continued to score.
ETBU made it a three-point game, 93-90, with just 6.8 seconds remaining, as Darry Moore laid the ball off the glass. But Johnson countered with a free throw coming out of a timeout, which extended the lead back to four, and sealed the victory for UMHB.
Quick pace did not equal sloppy play: UMHB has engaged in plenty of fast-paced throughout the course of the season, as Carroll noted postgame. But almost always they have produced games with high-turnover numbers in addition to the high-scoring. That was not the case in this one, however. UMHB turned the ball over just 10 times and sent ETBU to the line on just eight occasions. The Tigers did not shoot a free throw in the first half.
Carroll: “We had six turnovers in the first eight minutes of the game. So to finish the last three quarters of the game with four turnovers is pretty good. That was a problem for us last year. This year, knock on wood, we’re one of the better teams in the country in assist to turnover ratio.”
Three-point shooting was at a high: The Crusaders found their rhythm from three-point range early on, and never lost it, converting on 8 of its 17 attempts from beyond the arc. With 4:38 in the second half, Johnson took the ball, faked a drive to the basket, before sliding back and promptly draining a three, giving the Cru an 82-75 lead. It was one of three three-pointers for the junior, who tallied a team-high 34 points, and it came off an assist from Kyle Wright. Wright recorded a career-high 10 assists as the team had a total of 29.
Carroll: “29 assists is pretty special. We had good ball movement. It means we were finding people in good spots, and making shots.”
Cru finished well at the rim: UMHB was consistently scoring on layups as Ty Prince and Josiah Johnson repeatedly drove to the lane. The Cru tallied 40 paint points, a major part of the offense, weaving around the ETBU defense and converting on layups. Very few times did the Crusaders have a layup opportunity that was missed, which factored greatly into the team’s shooting percentage of 56.9 percent.
Carroll: “That’s an emphasis for us all the time. We want layups and assists and free throws. That’s really where our focus has to be offensively.”
What Needs Improvement
With size and athleticism, ETBU got the ball into the post, as its forwards, such as Moore, who stands at 6’7, led the offense. Moore finished with 20 points, and the Cru defense had trouble keeping the Tigers out of the paint. 46 of ETBU’s points came in the form of short-range shots, as the visitors from Marshall converted on 60 percent of their shots.
UMHB hosts the ASC Tournament next week, beginning on Thursday. The Cru faces Concordia in the quarterfinal round at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, with the semifinals set for Friday and championship game on Saturday.