Above photo by Neil Faux/@FauxFx
LONGVIEW- There were points on Thursday night that it seemed the 10th-ranked UMHB women’s basketball team could not miss. And even when the Crusaders did, more often than not, there was a fellow Crusader right there to gather an offensive rebound, and keep the possession alive.
That success on the offensive end-UMHB shot 39.3 percent from the field-coupled with a focused defensive effort, paved the way to the Cru’s 73-37 victory over LeTourneau, keeping UMHB perfect on the year, at 5-0 overall, 2-0 in ASC play. LeTourneau dropped to 3-6 overall, 0-3 in the ASC.
“The more games we get under our belt, the more we’re going to click in certain areas, both offensively and defensively,” UMHB head coach Mark Morefield said. “That came out tonight.”
How it happened
In a mentality that Morefield said started in the second half of Saturday’s win over Concordia, in which the Crusaders trailed by a point at halftime but came back for a 78-57 win, UMHB simply never wavered once the ball was tipped.
A pair of free throws from Arieona Rosborough gave UMHB a 2-0 lead, a lead the visitors from Belton protected and extended for the contest’s entirety.
The 2-0 lead became 4-0, then 6-0, eventually reaching 14-0 before a timeout was called. But coming out of the timeout, UMHB forced LETU into a shot-clock violation, the result of relentless pressure on the ball handler. Moments later, Catalina Cortez connected on a three-pointer, making it 17-0 in favor of the Cru. It was not until the 2:29 mark of the opening quarter that LETU scored its first points of the game on a Bailey Broughton free throw, and as it ended up, was one-third of the Yellowjackets first-quarter scoring, as UMHB took a 23-3 lead heading into the second quarter, capping the first 10 minutes with an Ashley Faux three-pointer as time expired.
The Crusaders did not let up either, outscoring the Yellowjackets in both the second and third quarters, leading by 40, 63-23, heading into the final period.
“I think the biggest thing is you look at when we were up 23-3,” Morefield said. “We’ve had teams in the past that would not build that lead. We would maintain it, and probably win by 18 or 20, but to push it and win by 36, speaks volumes for the focus of the team.”
A key factor of the quick start, and subsequent extension of the lead over the final three quarters was the rebounding of UMHB, whose effort in tracking down missed shots paid off. The Crusaders’ 19 offensive rebounds led to 13 second-chance points, such as Lauren Baker’s short-range shot with less than five minutes left in the third quarter, which made it 54-15.
And on the defensive end, LETU had few second-chance opportunities, with the Yellowjackets coming up with a total of just two offensive rebounds through the first three quarters.
“That’s a huge thing, and it’s going to be a huge thing come Saturday when we play ETBU, because that’s really ETBU’s best offense,” Morefield said of the offensive rebounding, and keeping the opponent’s second-chance opportunities to a minimum.
As is the case in the majority of one-sided games, Morefield had a chance to empty his bench, with 23 players seeing action, 15 of whom scored. But it was more than that. Beyond the overall stat totals, several Crusaders came off the bench and contributed in a variety of ways, some of which showed up in the box score, and some of which cannot be shown through numbers, but was visible nonetheless, attributes such as confidence.
Temple College transfer Kirsten Zaruba connected on a pair of three-pointers in a season-high 11 minutes, freshman guard Kenna Gibson came off the bench for a career-high eight points, including a 2-for-3 mark from three-point range, and freshman post player Katelen Brooks doubled her previous season-high in rebounds, with six. Additionally, Kamryn Martinez, in her second year with the program, had four rebounds and two steals, and Aja Holmes, named to the ASC’s All-Freshman team in 2021-22, made her season debut, playing three minutes.
“We’re seeing some of the key freshmen really start to play well,” Morefield said. “And I think Kamryn Martinez stepped in as a rebounder and defensive presence. Aja Holmes has been cleared and played a little bit tonight as well. When you get an All-Freshman player back from last year, it’s only helping you become better.”
Notable Team Stats
UMHB shot 40 percent from three-point range (6-of-15), which was the highest mark in five games this season. The Crusaders set new season bests on the defensive end in three-point defense (LETU was 0-for-13), shooting defense (LETU shot 22.9%) and steals (13).
UMHB travels to Marshall, Texas, for a matchup on Saturday at 1 p.m. against ETBU. The Tigers are 6-2 overall, and hold a 2-1 mark in ASC play.
“What our program strives for, we can’t hang our hat on one win or a ranking, when we know what our ultimate goal is,” Morefield said. “To do that, we have to come out ready to play each and every game, knowing that what we did tonight isn’t going to carry over to Saturday, but we need that same intensity and same type of energy to get the same result.”