CLARKSVILLE, Arkansas-Back into conference play on Thursday night, the UMHB men’s basketball team eclipsed the 100-point mark for the first time in a game this season.
And an improved defensive effort in the second half kept Ozarks from countering, as the Crusaders emerged victorious 101-80, in their lone out-of-state trip in ASC play. UMHB is now 9-4 overall, and 4-2 in the ASC.
3 takeaways from the win
Josiah Johnson had a heroic first half, created opportunities for his teammates in the second
As Carroll puts it, there are times when Josiah Johnson just finds a zone and becomes unstoppable. The first half of Thursday’s win was certainly one of those instances, as the senior guard connected on shot after shot. He scored UMHB’s first points on a jumper 16 seconds in, and put 24 points on the board in the game’s first 20 minutes.
He connected on four three-pointers in the opening half, the last of which gave UMHB a 52-45 lead with 32 seconds left, and in addition to his scoring success, put his teammates in position for points; three of his team-high four assists came in the first half.
“He put on an absolute show,” Carroll said of Johnson, who had 36 points, postgame. “It forced [Ozarks] to have to make an adjustment. They were trying to play him one-on-one, and Josiah was in one of those zones that he can get into.”
Johnson had just one-third of his first half point total in the second half, but played perhaps just as big of a role, though it did not show up on the stat sheet. With his tremendous first 20 minutes of play fresh on the minds of the Ozarks players, Johnson drew multiple defenders towards him as the second half progressed, which opened up shooting opportunities for other players on the floor.
“It opened things up,” Carroll said of Johnson drawing significant attention from the defense. “In the second half, we were smart, moved the ball and had good spacing. If they were going to commit two or even three guys to Joe, the other people were going to have to make them pay.”
The defensive intensity wasn’t where Carroll wanted it to be in the first half, but got much better coming out of halftime
Led by Johnson, UMHB scored in bunches throughout the first half, putting 52 points on the board. But the Crusaders also gave up 47, which was not a number Carroll was all that pleased with as both teams headed to the locker room at halftime.
“We tried to say, ‘Hey, this is the exact same type of game we were playing against Concordia, and we got beat. This is the game we played against Sul Ross State the second time at home, and got beat. This is the effort you’re giving.’ They had to go in there [in the second half] and change history.”
That they did, holding Ozarks to just 33 points in the second half. That included an impressive 16-3 that opened the final 20 minutes, as Ozarks went nearly eight minutes with just a single three-point basket from Grayson Nix. The Eagles shot 60 percent from the field in the first half, compared to just 44 percent in the second.
“I use the word ‘intent’ a lot,” Carroll said. “We have to intend to do what we do. You can’t just show up. In the first half, we just showed up and hoped for the best. In the second half, our intent was different. We carried out what we wanted to do.”
A “more-connected” team was seen in Clarksville
One of the aspects Carroll spoke about in length following last Saturday’s win over Nebraska Wesleyan was the overall team cohesiveness, and his desire for it to improve. In Thursday’s win, particularly in the second half, a more connected team was visible.
The Crusaders were disciplined and made smart passes, a product of the team being on the same page, with 17 assists in the contest and just seven turnovers. The momentum only built for the Cru as the second half progressed, and when freshman Hudson Johnson scored on consecutive, acrobatic layups with under two minutes left, the entire bench was on its feet, exuding an incredible amount of energy.
“We’ve had a lot of soul-searching going on this week,” Carroll said. “The leaders of this team did a good job of sitting down and talking and figuring out some things. You saw in the second half a more connected team, and a team that really rooted for each other.
“That’s a good sign. That was championship basketball. We got 18 guys in, and had some guys step up and do some nice things. We just have to keep taking strides.”
UMHB visits UT-Dallas in a key ASC showdown on Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. The Comets, like the Crusaders, received votes in the Week 5 D3hoops.com Top 25 poll, and currently sit atop the conference with a 6-0 mark in league play.
UMHB stat leaders
Points: Josiah Johnson (36), Ty Prince (17), Payton Brooks (11)
Rebounds: Ty Prince (5), Nathan Stolz (5), Josiah Johnson (4), Gibson Hearne (4)
Assists: Josiah Johnson (4), Ty Prince (4), Kyle Wright (3)
Team shooting stats: 52.9% FG, 54.2% 3-point, 87.5% FT