Photo by Russell Marwitz/Russellmarwitz.com
RICHARDSON, Texas- At halftime, on the road, tied with a team atop the ASC standings at 6-0 in conference play, the UMHB men’s basketball team reached a sort of crossroads. The second half performance would determine whether the Crusaders snapped UT-Dallas’ eight game winning streak and emerged with a major conference victory, or left Richardson with their third loss in ASC play.
About an hour later, UMHB was walking off the court after putting 56 points on the board in the second half, a win in tow. The 99-93 result handed UTD its first loss in ASC action, simultaneously moving UMHB to 5-2 in the league, and 10-4 overall.
“I wish we would’ve handled the foul situation a little better, but the fact that we were able to win the game against a team that’s playing really good basketball is a testament to my guys,” UMHB head coach Clif Carroll said postgame. “This is a big-time win.”
Getting to the free-throw line, and staying consistent there, played a key role
The contest, especially in the first half, was characterized by frequent stoppages and foul calls, leading to a high number of free throws for both teams. UMHB had 23 attempts from the line in the game’s first 20 minutes, and the nature of the officiating actually played a role in the Cru racing out to a 27-15 lead at the 8:09 mark of the opening half, before UTD pulled even, at 43 apiece, by halftime.
“We let the way the game was being officiated kind of get to us in the first half,” Carroll said. “We lost our aggressiveness. Dallas did a better job of playing through some of the foul calls.”
But the Crusaders came out in the second half and responded well, outscoring UTD, 56-50. And for the second straight game, UMHB was above 80 percent from the free-throw line, a notable number considering the Crusaders took 35 shots from the charity stripe. It was the most free throws UMHB had attempted in a game this season, as they made 29. Josiah Johnson was a perfect 12-of-12, D.J. Kane was 7-of-8 and Ty Prince was 5-of-6.
“It’s fine if the officials were going to call the game like that, we just had to adjust,” Carroll said postgame, noting that UMHB was 11-of-12 from the line in the second half. . “We couldn’t have empty possessions. We did a good job of staying aggressive, getting to the line, and then when we were there, just making the free throws.”
Ty Prince had a career day
Prince was critical to UMHB’s high-scoring effort on the offensive end, putting up a career-high 31 points on 11-of-17 shooting. He was 4-of-6 on three-point shots, and pulled down four rebounds along with four assists. For most of the game, UTD struggled to slow his scoring success, as the ball found its way into Prince’s hands time and time again.
On one stretch within the first two minutes of the second half, he connected on a three-pointer, giving UMHB a 46-45 lead, then came up with a steal 18 seconds later, getting the ball to Gibson Hearne for a layup. And his steal-turned-slam dunk with 4:12 left pulled all the momentum in the direction of the Cru, as part of a 10-0 run.
“The way they were playing Josiah allowed Ty some wiggle room,” Carroll said postgame. “He had a matchup that he liked and was comfortable with, and found some great offense.”
The offense as a whole clicked in a big way, and it couldn’t have come against a better opponent
Prince’s scoring was part of yet another exceptional offensive effort, marking the third straight contest in which the Crusaders shot above 50 percent from the field. As a team, UMHB tallied 24 assists, converted on 57.7 percent of its shooting attempts, and was 10-of-22 from beyond the three-point arc. It all goes back to the offensive system UMHB runs, which allows for a constant rhythm and flow with a hint of creativity from the five on the floor at any given point.
“The beautiful thing about this offense and running this motion is I don’t have to control everything,” Carroll said. “We really give these guys freedom and the ability to have creativity and figure out where they can have success. You’re seeing guys who have been in the program for three years finally start to learn how to play and master this system a little bit.”
UMHB’s scoring run of the day came in the previously mentioned 10-0 run with under five minutes left in the duel. Hunter Stevens put UTD in front, 78-76, with just over six minutes left. Playing in front of their home crowd, the Comets seemed to be in a good position, especially coming into the matchup as the ASC’s top defensive team, allowing just 68.9 points per game. But coming out a subsequent media timeout, the Crusaders scored on five straight possessions, with Luke Feely getting the run going on consecutive layups.
“We had an offensive explosion this week against two teams on the road,” Carroll added. “So hopefully we can carry that into Hardin-Simmons [on Thursday]. HSU is a very good defensive team. We’re going to have to lock in and have another great performance this week.”
Hardin-Simmons will make the trip to Belton on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m., having upset 13th-ranked St. Thomas (TX) on Thursday night in its most recent performance. The Cowboys are 9-4, with a 4-2 ASC record.
“We’re climbing back to the top of the standings,” Carroll said. “We have a great opportunity with five home games. They’re the first one up. That’s what we have to focus on.”
UMHB stat leaders
Points: Ty Prince (31), Josiah Johnson (19), D.J. Kane (10)
Rebounds: Josiah Johnson (5), Ty Prince (4), Gibson Hearne (4)
Assists: Josiah Johnson (6), Gibson Hearne (5), Ty Prince (4)