Above photo by Neil Faux/@FauxFx31
MEMPHIS- Everyone on UMHB’s roster remembered the game three weeks ago in Belton, when ETBU not only defeated the Cru on senior day, but also snapped the team’s 20-game win streak and perfect conference record.
They had thought they might get their chance for revenge last weekend in Marshall, when the two teams entered the ASC Tournament with the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, respectively. But that chance never came. At least, not in the conference tournament.
Instead the rematch came in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday night, and UMHB was more than ready.
The Crusaders provided a statement ending to a statement game, finishing on a 14-2 run, defeating the Tigers 75-57. UMHB will now wait to find out its destination for the Round of 16, and are set to play Transylvania.
“The mentality of our program is that we’re not going to get beat twice, by the same team,” UMHB head coach Mark Morefield said postgame.
The Cru jumped out to an early 6-4 lead, as Ashley Faux, then Arieona Rosborough, connected on three-pointers. But ETBU soon responded, and a back-and-forth quarter played out, as UMHB cut the Tigers’ lead to one point twice, before tying the score, then taking the lead on Kaitlyn Kollmorgen’s jumper with 1:49 left.
By the end of the quarter, the score was knotted at 19 apiece, showing all the early signs of a contest destined to be decided in the final minutes. It was equally as close after the next 10 minutes, as Bethany McLeod followed up her game-winning shot on Friday night with another key three-pointer, this one coming with 53 seconds remaining in the quarter. It cut the ETBU lead to 30-29, which was the halftime score.
It set up what ended up being the vital stretch of the game, as UMHB outscored the opposition 23-4 in the third quarter, dominating in every facet of the game. After being outrebounded 21-16 in the first half, the Cru attacked the boards, the offensive production improved, and as the momentum shifted towards the Crusaders, it never reversed. With 5:04 in the third, Alexia Martin took the ball just outside the ETBU three-point arc and raced the length of the floor after the steal, topping it off with a flawless two-step bound in the paint before laying the ball off the glass.
Plays such as that one were found often throughout the second half for UMHB. Though ETBU was successful in cutting the lead to single digits in the early minutes of the fourth quarter, and then again midway through the period. UMHB countered each time. With 3:53, ETBU’s Jade Goynes laid the ball in, cutting the Crusaders’ advantage to just six points, 61-55. It sparked a 14-2 run that closed out the contest in fitting form, with UMHB rising to a championship level.
“In a season you’re always going to have ups and downs,” Morefield said. “We played so well during that 20-game win streak, and then hit a rough patch between our last home stand and going into the conference tournament. That’s going to happen.
“Now we’re getting back to where we were during that 20-game streak. Where we were shooting the ball well and guarding the ball well.”
With UMHB advancing to the Sweet 16, here’s a closer look at Saturday’s victory:
Bench production: With Kollmorgen in foul trouble for most of the game, Catherine Kaiser and Aja Holmes stepped up in the post, combining for 15 points and four rebounds. The rest of the bench followed suit. Olivia Champion added eight points, Martin had four, and guards Cheyanne Bonilla and Lauren Baker each handled the ball well in the backcourt.
Morefield: “The way we spread out the minutes last night really helped, especially since we played a pressing team [last night]. If you have a rotation of seven or eight players, and you play against a team that presses consistently, I don’t know if [the victory] tonight happens. Our bench stepped up.”
Cru limited ETBU’s second-chance opportunities: Entering the contest, Morefield made it clear that another performance of allowing the Tigers 19 offensive boards and 21 second-chance points, like the Cru did in the regular season finale, would not do. UMHB held ETBU to 12 offensive rebounds, and 10 second-chance points in a strong defensive effort.
Morefield: “Coming in, our goal was to limit them to 10 offensive rebounds. We allowed 12, so that’s two over, but I’ll take it, because anything is an improvement from 19 offensive rebounds and 21 second-chance points.”
Solid shooting continued: UMHB followed up Friday’s 41 percent shooting percentage, with an even better mark against ETBU, 51 percent. The Crusaders were on point from everywhere on the floor, especially from short-range, led by McLeod, who had 18 points.
UMHB takes on Transylvania in next week’s third round matchup. The Pioneers, 26-0 on the year, defeated Southern Virginia 77-55 on Saturday night.
Morefield: “This is a culmination of their hard work and something I want them to enjoy. They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do, whether it’s in the summer when they get back on campus, or when we started practice. This is a reward for them and for what they’ve been able to accomplish. You don’t want to take these moments for granted.”