MARSHALL, Texas-There is something about Marshall that makes it a tough place in which to win.
Because for the second straight season, the UMHB men’s basketball team fell to ETBU on the road, dropping a 72-64 contest on Saturday afternoon.
“I could give you every excuse in the book,” UMHB head coach Clif Carroll said postgame. “The bottom line is, it was the same story as last year. We just weren’t good enough to win.”
How it happened
Amongst the negative factors that played into the result that drops No. 24 UMHB to 3-3 overall, 1-2 in ASC play, were the 16 turnovers, ETBU outrebounding the Cru by three, and the intangible elements that have the potential to flip a game, despite the stat sheet. UMHB shot 45.8 percent from the field, but could not make up for the 13 points ETBU gained off turnovers, or the toughness with which the Tigers played,
“We turned it over in big spots, we didn’t rebound in big spots, and we got out-physicalled on the floor in key spots,” Carroll noted. “It’s frustrating because we’re so much better of team than the way we played.”
UMHB never led, falling behind 2-0 on a pair of Aaron Gregg free throws 21 seconds into the game. Both free throws and Gregg proved huge assets for the Tigers, as they converted on 21-of-27 attempts from the free throw line. UMHB was 12-of-15, but the discrepancy was in the number of times ETBU found itself shooting free throws.
Gregg, to his credit, was an unstoppable force for ETBU, scoring 29 points, 11 of which came on free throws.
10 seconds after Gregg’s first free throws of the day swished through the net, Gibson Hearne, who had been called for the foul that sent ETBU to the line, tied the score on a layup. A jumper from Luke Feely and a layup from Ty Prince followed, but the Tigers had already pulled away.
By the time Prince converted on his second layup of the first half, ETBU had put together a 10-2 run, leading 15-8 by that point. UMHB worked to cut the deficit, with Josiah Johnson converting on a pair of free throws, making ETBU’s lead single digits, 37-29, as halftime approached. In the opening minutes of the second half, it appeared UMHB’s comeback would be completed, as Luke Feely’s layup at the 17:30 mark cut the deficit to two.
But as would be the case each time UMHB got within a possession, ETBU found another surge, mounting a 6-2 run on this occasion, widening the lead to 45-39. The Crusaders had another opportunity with 5:34 left, when Johnson swished a pair of free throws, tying the score at 57 apiece. Then ETBU countered with four straight free throws and a Darry Moore layup, taking back a six-point advantage. The Tigers held on from there, converted at the free-throw line to seal their fourth straight ASC win.
A notable component of the early-season struggles for the Cru comes in part due to starting the year with six consecutive road contests. Few teams, if any, have had that set up over the last six weeks, and only naturally does it have the potential to wear a team down.
“I really felt like we were good enough to handle [the six straight games on the road],” Carroll said. “Obviously, we still have a long way to go.”
Though a 1-1 week was not what the Crusaders desired, it remains the month of December and just the second week of ASC play. UMHB may no longer be ranked when the Top 25 poll is released Monday, or in the top half of the ASC standings. But the season is far from over.
“We’re six weeks into it,” Carroll said postgame. “It’s not like our season is over. Everything is still in front of us.”
UMHB returns to Belton for a pair of ASC matchups against Howard Payne and Sul Ross State on Thursday and Saturday of this coming week, respectively. HPU enters the week with an 0-4 mark in ASC play and a 2-7 record overall. SRSU is 1-3 in the conference, with a 2-6 overall mark. It will be the first week this season in which UMHB plays on its home court. Prior to that, the Cru faces D-I Texas State in San Marcos on Dec. 13 at 7 p.m.