Photo of Kenna Gibson by Luke Zayas/True To The Cru
BELTON- The shots took a while to fall for the 15th-ranked UMHB women’s basketball team on Saturday afternoon, but once the Crusaders found a rhythm offensively, they had no trouble holding on the lead, a lead that became a 71-61 final score, as UMHB beat Sul Ross State for its fourth win in American Southwest Conference play.
“Once we started executing, and you combine that with the talent we have, that’s what really turned it around in the second half,” UMHB head coach Mark Morefield said postgame.
UMHB is now 7-1 overall, 4-1 in ASC play, while SRSU drops to 6-5 overall, and 3-2 in conference play.
How it happened
The slow first quarter start gave way to a much stronger second quarter offensively
The opening quarter yielded little offense, with the SRSU taking a 9-4 lead at the end of the first 10 minutes. Neither team shot above 20 percent, and all four of UMHB’s points were scored in the paint of second-chance opportunities.
The shooting improved in the second quarter, as UMHB executed much better against the SRSU defense, cut its number of turnovers in half, and took the lead for the first time. With 4:30 in the second quarter, Ashley Faux connected on a three-pointer, breaking a 22-22 tie. After Arieona Rosborough gave UMHB a five-point lead, SRSU cut the deficit back to 27-25. But then Lauren Baker took a pass from Kenna Gibson, and promptly drained a three-pointer. Time and time again, UMHB came through with key scores as SRSU refused to go away.
“We finally executed our press break,” Morefield noted postgame of the difference between the first quarter and the next three, especially as the second half unfolded. “That’s what it really came down to. We went from 18 turnovers to nine turnovers and started taking care of the ball.”
Gibson leads a 17-4 third-quarter run
Leading by a single point as the third quarter began, UMHB’s key run came three minutes into the period, after SRSU’s Marley Rokas connected on a long jumper just inside the three-point arc, giving the Lobos a 35-30 advantage. It was then that Payton Hicks and Rosborough scored on consecutive possessions for the Crusaders, cutting the deficit to one, before Gibson scored the first of her nine points in the quarter, swishing a three that gave UMHB a 37-35 lead with 6:40 left.
Gibson followed that three by scoring on the following possession, breaking a 37-37 tie, and when Melody Martinez’s layup fell through with 4:50 in the period for SRSU, Gibson once again came through by drawing a foul and getting a layup to fall on the offensive end. 25 seconds later, it was the Houston, Texas native scoring for the fourth time, as her jump-shot swished through for a 43-39 UMHB lead, the Cru’s largest of the contest.
“That’s what Kenna can do,” Morefield said. “She’s very good offensively. Sometimes she can just blend into the background, but we don’t need her to be in the background. We need her to be on the forefront. I was really happy to see that she really took that initiative and answered the challenge at halftime to come out and be aggressive.”
That lead soon widened, as Catalina Cortez and Katelen Brooks each connected on shots that made the score 47-39, part of a 17-4 run for the Crusaders.
“[The first half] was probably one of the worst first halves we’ve played in a long time,” Morefield said. “We weren’t making shots, but we also weren’t attacking and were settling for jump shots. It came down to that execution against the press, and doing the little things. We just needed some separation.”
UMHB held off SRSU’s late charge, outscored the Lobos 22-17 in the final 10 minutes
SRSU again climbed back, cutting the deficit to one-possession with under seven minutes remaining, as UMHB led 51-48. But Gibson stepped up once again, and fired a shot from beyond the three-point arc. Swish. SRSU never got within three points again, as Weade Adeleke converted on a layup, and Gibson again connected on a three-pointer, making it 59-52.
Another three, this time from Jaycie Brisco with 4:15 left in the game, sent all the momentum in UMHB’s direction, as the Crusaders extended their lead beyond single digits for the first time, leading 64-52. For the final four minutes, UMHB maintained its lead, and while it dipped below double digits on a few occasions, the Crusaders never really let the Lobos back into it.
“We have a very talented team,” Morefield said. “We probably have better shooters than we’ve had in the past, so that obviously helps us. Kenna Gibson, Kirsten Zaruba, Lauren Baker can all shoot it, so I think that opens up some things for Arieona Rosborough, Jaycie Brisco, Payton Hicks, and others.”
As UMHB moves forward into four non-conference matchups before ASC play resumes in January, Morefield noted that the defensive performance will be an emphasis point. SRSU shot 36 percent from the field, and was particularly good in taking advantage of UMHB’s 27 turnovers, scoring 27 points from those. The Lobos also scored 12 points on fast-break plays in transition, as UMHB struggled to get back down the floor a handful of times early in the game, allowing SRSU to pass the ball upcourt quickly for a layup. Against nationally-ranked opponents in three of their next four contests, the Crusaders will need to be better on that end of the floor.
“Our offense started clicking, but defensively I felt we were lethargic and slow to react,” Morefield added. “You know you’re going to have a night on the defensive end, where you’re a step slow and not rotating. Hopefully we can regroup as we go to San Antonio tomorrow for two big games and be able to get back to what we do defensively.”
UMHB prepares for a pair of matchups against Top 25 opponents just prior to the Christmas holiday, as the Cru travels to San Antonio. On Monday, UMHB battles No. 4-ranked Trinity (TX) on its home court, before facing No. 20 Puget Sound in a neutral site contest on Tuesday.
|Sul Ross State (6-5)||9||20||15||17||61|
UMHB stat leaders
Points: Kenna Gibson (15), Arieona Rosborough (12), Payton Hicks (8), Lauren Baker (8)
Rebounds: Arieona Rosborough (10), Ashley Faux (6), Lauren Baker (5)
Assists: Catalina Cortez (4), Lauren Baker (3)
Steals: Arieona Rosborough (4), Jaycie Brisco, Catalina Cortez, Kenna Gibson (2)
Blocks: Ashley Faux (3)
UMHB shooting stats: 42.9% FG, 45.0% 3-point, 66.7% FT