RICHARDSON, Texas- With 3:20 left in Saturday’s ASC duel at UT-Dallas, the 24th-ranked UMHB women’s basketball team trailed by three, 49-46. For head coach Mark Morefield, it brought back an all-too-familiar feeling dating back to the Dec. 20 loss to Puget Sound.
But Morefield’s team had matured greatly since the 59-58 defeat five days before Christmas. Because faced with the same position of being in a tight game late, the Crusaders made sure there would be a different result.
“It’s part of the growth,” Morefield said. “That’s what hurt us with Puget Sound, but we’ve been able to grow up, and now close this gap today.”
The victory came narrowly, but UMHB closed the contest on a 7-0 scoring run, taking down UTD, 53-49. The win moved UMHB to 11-3 overall, and 6-1 in conference play, as the Crusaders now hold sole possession of second-place in the ASC, with first-place Hardin-Simmons coming to Belton on Thursday night.
3 takeaways from the win
UMHB executed defensively down the stretch
The win saw UMHB produce its lowest scoring output of the season, five fewer than in the loss to Puget Sound. But the Cru held its opponent to just 49 points, the second time in the last three games in which the defensive effort has resulted in a sub-50-point performance by the opposition.
Truth be told, the 7-0 scoring run was critical in the game’s final three minutes, but it was the effort seen on the defensive end, holding the Comets without a field goal for the final 6:16, that secured UMHB’s victory.
“Our defense stayed intact,” Morefield said. “That was the critical thing. We didn’t give up an offensive rebound to extend the possession. It was a one [shot] and out both times [on UTD’s last two possessions].”
UMHB held the Comets to just seven points in the fourth quarter, and for the game, were fairly consistent on that end of the floor. UTD shot just 31.4 percent and was 4-of-15 from three-point range. But it did not come easily. Under first-year head coach Joe Shotland, the Comets were aggressive, and challenged the Cru with various offensive sets.
“Joe Shotland is doing a great job up there,” Morefield said of UTD. “They don’t have some of the scorers and shooters they’ve had in the past. But they’re a gritty team. They run a ton of different actions. He’s really gotten them to buy into that.”
Offense was hard to come by for two main reasons
As far as the offense went, UMHB’s 32.3 percent mark from the field, and mere 14.5 percent performance on three-point attempts was in line with UTD’s prior performances. The Comets entered the matchup leading the conference in fewest points allowed, and controlled the pace of play, taking away the potential for fast-break points. UMHB had just five points in transition. Against Ozarks two nights ago, the Crusaders tallied 25.
“They gave up the offensive rebound and fell back [on defense] to take away our transition,” Morefield noted. “We couldn’t get them into a lot of turnovers, because they’re so systematic. I thought there were spurts where we were able to get them into turnovers, but they would just retreat back. We weren’t able to get anything in transition.”
Part of the low offensive day was also somewhat self-induced, as Morefield said postgame that far too often, his team was “bracing” for contact from UTD on short-range shots; contact that never came. It threw off the timing, and as a result, UMHB came away with several empty possessions.
“Everyone converged on the ball [for UTD],” Morefield said, “And when we did have plays at the rim, we were expecting contact. We were waiting for contact instead of just making the play. We can’t do that.”
Drawing parallels to Puget Sound reveals the growth of the Cru
Throughout his postgame conversation with True To The Cru, Morefield referenced the loss in San Antonio to Puget Sound multiple times. It provided a fitting parallel to the way Saturday’s win played out: low-scoring and competitive late in the fourth quarter. For a team that is young, and started two newcomers on Saturday, even the losses have proven to be positives as the season has progressed. UMHB learned a great deal from the lack of execution down the stretch against PS; lessons that proved effective on Saturday.
“I think the one thing that this game really relates to is the Puget Sound game,” Morefield said. “We weren’t able to close that game out. I think this is good because it gives us that momentum to say, ‘We can close games out. We can do it.’”
“Just like beating UC Santa Cruz, after coming off losses to Trinity and Puget Sound, gave us the confidence to say, ‘We can beat good teams.’ Each time we’re using it as a learning experience. And when that opportunity comes again, we’re learning from the mistakes we made previously and not allowing those to come again.”
UMHB hosts Hardin-Simmons in a rivalry duel on Thursday evening in Belton. Tip off is set for 5:30 p.m.
“It’s a great opportunity for us because I think [our team] feels slighted,” Morefield said. “We went 18-1 in conference last year, and even though we didn’t win the conference tournament, we went to a Sweet Sixteen. But we were still picked second in the ASC preseason poll [to HSU]. The motivation piece isn’t really going to be needed.”
UMHB stat leaders
Points: Arieona Rosborough (16), Ashley Faux (10), Aja Holmes (6)
Rebounds: Arieona Rosborough (9), Ashley Faux (8), Ashley Faux (8)
Assists: Payton Hicks (4), Arieona Rosborough (3), Jaycie Brisco (3)