Photo by Russell Marwitz/russellmarwitz.com
BELTON- It came down to the final shot, but the UMHB men’s basketball team did enough to pull out a 77-75 win over McMurry Saturday afternoon.
It was not all that pretty, with 24 UMHB turnovers contributing to McMurry’s offensive success throughout both halves, but nonetheless, UMHB is 12-4 overall, and 7-2 in the American Southwest Conference heading into a short pause before resuming the regular season slate one week from Saturday against Concordia (TX) in Belton.
“I asked them to step away, rest, watch some football, and come back Monday ready for the [developmental squad] game ready to cheer those guys on,” UMHB head coach Clif Carroll said postgame of the much-needed break for his squad. “Tuesday we’ll be back at it in practice.”
With just over three seconds left on the clock and the score knotted at 75 apiece, UMHB’s Ty Prince got the ball in his hands, faked right, and rose up for what proved to be the game-winner, swishing a shot from the baseline for a two-point lead. McMurry drew up a solid play in an attempt to tie the score, but CJ LeBlanc’s heave from about five feet beyond the three-point arc was just off to the left, sealing UMHB’s first win of the season by five points or less.
One of the main points Carroll made postgame came in the fact that though the Cru did emerge with the win, the narrow victory revealed several areas for improvement heading into next Saturday’s contest.
“Having 24 turnovers is unacceptable,” Carroll said. “We have to do a better job with that. Letting them win the rebounding battle showed us that we weren’t there today. We have to be a lot better.”
The opponents played relatively even through the opening half, with UMHB beginning the game on a 6-0 run. McMurry countered, however, making it a one-point game with 12:56 left on a three-point play by Elias Garcia. Remy Minor’s second three-pointer of the afternoon tied the score at 16 with just under 10 minutes left, but UMHB’s Josiah Johnson countered with a three of his own 15 seconds later.
It was a banner day for Johnson, who also broke UMHB’s career record for steals with 183. He had three steals in the win.
“I’m proud of Joe,” Carroll said. “When he walks out the door at Mary Hardin-Baylor, he’s going to own every record there is. He’s a special player, but he’s even a better person.
“He’s becoming a more complete player. Three years ago, he stepped onto our campus as a straight bucket guy. Outside of scoring, he wasn’t super good at anything else. But he’s really developed as a defensive player and as a person.”
Johnson’s three-pointer sparked a 7-0 scoring run and the Crusaders widened the advantage to as many as 11 points with 4:52 left in the half. But McMurry, known for its pace of play and high-scoring guards, connected on three straight three-pointers, cutting the deficit back to just two points. By halftime, it was 35-34 in favor of UMHB.
The second half was much of the same, only this time, the Warhawks were the ones who gained a sizable lead, only to see it erased. With 7:46 remaining, LeBlanc drained a three-pointer from the right corner, putting McMurry in front, 59-51. But just over two minutes later, UMHB had pieced together a 12-3 run, taking back the lead on Prince’s jumper that made it 63-62.
A smaller, yet just as criitcal, 6-2 run was necessary in UMHB’s pursuit of victory, as McMurry led 73-69 with 2:02 remaining. Kyle Wright’s free throw with 58 seconds on the clock tied the score at 75, setting up Prince’s game-winner.
“We got Josiah and Ty back in there and gave them some space,” Carroll said of the late scoring runs that lifted UMHB to victory. “They took the game over and had 24 of our last 26 points. They both had a little ibt of rest and were ready to go the distance from that point. And we took care of the ball.”
UMHB hosts Concordia (TX) at 3 p.m. on Jan. 21. Concordia defeated the Cru, 81-77, in Austin on Dec. 3.
UMHB stat leaders
Points: Josiah Johnson (24), Ty Prince (20), Payton Brooks (8)
Rebounds: Ty Prince (9), Josiah Johnson (6), Gibson Hearne (5)
Assists: Gibson Hearne (4), Luke Feely (2), Nathan Stolz (2), Kyle Wright (2)