Photo by Russell Marwitz/russellmarwitz.com
SAN ANTONIO- For the second straight contest, the UMHB women’s basketball team struggled out of the gate.
On Saturday, a strong second half made up for the poor first quarter performance. But on Monday night, on the road at third-ranked Trinity (TX), no amount of aggressive defense or key second-half shooting could overcome what was at one point in the first-quarter, a 20-point deficit. Though UMHB rallied late, Trinity’s sizable lead proved too vast, as the Tigers remained undefeated with a 74-63 victory.
“The hole was too deep,” UMHB head coach Mark Morefield said postgame. “Between our start on Saturday and our start tonight, I think it’s something we need to take a look at.”
UMHB drops to 7-2 overall, while Trinity improves to 10-0.
How it happened
Trinity dominated the opening quarter
Very little went right for the visitors from Belton in the game’s opening quarter, creating a deficit that UMHB worked tirelessly to erase, without much success. With All-American Maggie Shippley back on the floor for the first time since Nov. 18, Trinity’s offensive attack was only strengthened, racing out to a 20-2 lead within the first seven minutes.
UMHB’s first two possessions saw the Crusaders pull down two offensive rebounds apiece, but neither of the possessions resulted in points. In fact, it was not until Weade Adeleke’s three-point shot rolled around the rim and fell through the net that UMHB tallied its first field goal of the contest. And that came at the 2:30 mark of the first quarter.
By that point, Trinity had mounted a 17-0 run, unphased by UMHB’s zone defense as the Tigers shot with plenty of confidence from three-point range and took advantage of eight first-quarter turnovers by Crusaders. A number of those turnovers were products of the Tigers’ full-court press defense, which put pressure on UMHB’s guards as they attempted to drive the ball up the court. And even once past midcourt, Trinity’s defense allowed few drives to the basket for close-range shots, leading to several of UMHB’s passes around the perimeter being intercepted by the opposition.
“There are things we have to be better at,” Morefield said, referencing the fact that it took his team quite some time to comfortably navigate the pressing defense. “It starts right now with paying attention, executing details, and running what we’re supposed to run, so we don’t turn the ball over and end up down by so much.”
The Cru began a comeback
UMHB cut slightly into Trinity’s mountainous lead in the second quarter that followed, finding ways to beat the press more efficiently, and for the first time, consistently scoring on shots from the field, rather than free throws. It was 36-20 with Trinity leading by halftime, UMHB having cut its turnover number in half in the second, though the Crusaders converted on just six of 34 shots through the first 20 minutes.
And it seemed the Tigers would carry that same success into the second half, which they did for a time. Ashlyn Milton intercepted a UMHB pass near midcourt, and Trinity used two quick passes as the ball found its way into the hands of Claire Hale, who finished the play with a layup, making it 40-22. Then Katelen Brooks connected on a three-pointer, and two minutes later Payton Hicks found Ashley Faux for a wide-open shot beyond the arc. Faux’s three-pointer cut Trinity’s lead to just 11 points with 5:07 left in the third, and slowly UMHB chipped away.
Hicks’ three-pointer at the 3:03 mark made it a 17-1 run for the Crusaders, who trimmed the Trinity lead to a mere four points, 43-39. With 1:32 left, Josie Bruder scored on a layup, and all of sudden, what had been a 42-22 lead for Trinity six minutes prior was now just a two-point advantage.
“That group of Catalina [Cortez], Kenna [Gibson], Josie Bruder, Katelen Brooks and Kamryn Martinez really lifted us and gave us energy,” Morefield said.
A key part of that run was in UMHB’s defensive approach, as the Crusaders switched from a zone defense to a more aggressive man-to-man defense, which forced a handful of turnovers and created some traction for a team that desperately needed its confidence back.
“We have to start doing what we talk about,” Morefield said. “We had to get out of that [zone] because if we hadn’t, it could have been even worse. So we went to man, and finally we started playing how we wanted to play.”
A late 10-2 run from Trinity put it away
That two-point margin was the closest UMHB would get, though the Crusaders cut the deficit to three four times, before a 10-2 run from Trinity seemed to pull hopes of victory for the visitors from Belton just out of reach. Hale’s layup with 4:39 left extended the Trinity lead back to double digits. As was the story throughout the night, UMHB just could not overcome the struggles of the opening quarter. To add to that, the Crusaders did not convert on a shot for the game’s final three minutes.
“You can fall behind on Saturday at home and have a chance to win it, but you can’t fall behind 25-7 on the road to another Top 25 team and expect to win,” Morefield said. “The margin was just too deep. I feel like if we had gotten it to a tie, that may have given us a second wind, but we weren’t able to do that. We have to be better at starting the game.”
UMHB has little time to dwell on the defeat, facing No. 20 Puget Sound on Tuesday night in San Antonio. That contest has a 6 p.m. CT tip-off and, though in December, NCAA Tournament implications.
UMHB remains a clear ASC title contender, but in the event that the Crusaders do not win the conference, their resume would be evaluated for an at-large bid. Those selections are largely weighted on win percentage and a team’s record against regionally-ranked opponents. Within the span of two weeks, UMHB will play Trinity, Puget Sound, and UC Santa Cruz, all of whom are expected to be regionally-ranked. In order to set themselves up for a tournament bid, winning now is imperative.
“There’s no alternative,” Morefield said. “The bottom line is, you have to win. We’re going to have to be ready to bounce back tomorrow. We can’t linger on this.”
UMHB stat leaders
Points: Ashley Faux (16), Weade Adeleke (13), Katelen Brooks (7), Payton Hicks (7)
Rebounds: Ashley Faux (12), Weade Adeleke (8), Kenna Gibson (4), Josie Bruder (4)
Assists: Catalina Cortez (5), Payton Hicks (4), Lauren Baker (2)
Steals: Kenna Gibson (4), Payton Hicks (4), Arizona Rosborough, Catalina Cortez, Kenna Gibson (2)
UMHB shooting stats: 27.3 FG%, 26.9% 3-point, 70% FT