Ty Prince shoots over a Concordia defender in Saturday’s win (Photo by Luke Zayas/True To The Cru)
BELTON- With a three-point shot off of an inbounds pass three minutes into the second half of Saturday’s contest, Josiah Johnson became the all-time career leader in UMHB history in total points, with 1,696.
But he did not stop there.
Johnson came through with 11 more for the Cru and they needed every last one, defeating Concordia (TX), 95-92. The same went for Ty Prince, who, on a key free throw that tied the score at 89 apiece with 1:28 left, scored the 1000th point of his UMHB career. Each made history in the win, and beyond that, allowed UMHB to avenge its Dec. 3 loss to the Tornadoes.
“That’s what Coach Carroll preaches: consistency,” Johnson said postgame. “We were getting good looks but weren’t making them in the first half. So there were times when we had to force the issue and get to the rim. That’s what we started doing.”
UMHB tallied 54 points in the paint in a game played at breakneck speed. From the opening tip until the final buzzer, the ball was sent up and down the court, neither side willing to fall behind.
“We’ve done this over and over and over,” UMHB head coach Clif Carroll said, “where we’ve proven we can win. The mark of a good team is being able to find a way to win when you don’t shoot the ball well.
“Coming into this game, we were one of the best free throw shooting teams in the country. And we shot 54 percent from the line today. We didn’t shoot well from three, but forced some huge turnovers and found a way to win.”
After UMHB took a 13-2 lead early, Concordia took the advantage back, and led 44-40 at the half. The Crusaders did not reclaim their lead until Luke Feely scored with 20 seconds left in the contest, though UMHB repeatedly got within a single point, only to have the Tornadoes score on the other end. After Feely’s layup and ensuing free throw, Josiah Johnson came up with a key steal and Concordia then missed on its final possession as the buzzer sounded, giving UMHB a well-earned victory.
The Crusaders are now 13-4, with an 8-2 ASC record. After Saturday’s results, UMHB is third in the league standings, just a half-game back from ETBU, who comes to Belton Thursday night.
Getting to the rim was key in UMHB’s second half rally
With 8:49 left in the second half, Concordia went up 76-69 on a pair of Jaylon Johnson free throws, but UMHB continued fighting back, getting to the rim, and chipping away at the deficit. UMHB’s next three shots were all made in the paint, contributing to a much larger storyline that played out through both halves. The Tornadoes’ perimeter defense did not give an inch, and UMHB’s three-point shooting was off point, but when the Crusaders drove the ball to the basket, scoring opportunities often came with it. UMHB tallied 54 points in the 15×12-foot area around the hoop, known as “the paint”.
“Coming in at halftime, 18 of our 37 shots were from three, and we weren’t making threes,” Carroll noted. “We put emphasis on using the shot fake, getting to the rim, getting to the foul line a little more. And we held [Concordia] to just seven paint points in the second half. That game was won in the paint.”
UMHB’s experience helped in the battle against the full-court press
Concordia’s long-known style of play centers upon utilizing its athleticism, speed, and full-court ball pressure, creating turnovers and hurried shots. The constant pushing of the ball upcourt by the Tornadoes, along with the frequent defensive pressure before UMHB even reached halfcourt had the potential to wear Carroll’s squad down. And it seemed to at times, as Concordia took its first lead on Antoine Henderson’s layup at the 12:10 mark of the first half after falling behind 13-2 out of the gate.
But to their credit, the Crusaers did not back down, and matched Concordia’s aggressive style of play on both ends of the floor.
“The second time we played last year, [Concordia head coach Stan Bonewitz] decided to stop trapping us in the press,” Carroll said. “We do a good job against the trap but the full court pressure can get to you. We handled it. We have older players, they’re used to that kind of pressure.”
While teams with younger players on the floor may have seen a high number of turnovers, rushed passes, and overall lack of composure with the constant in-your-face style of defense that Concordia throws at its opposotion, UMHB did not falter. It was in large part due to the experience found on the roster. Seven of the 10 who saw action were either juniors or seniors and faced the Tornadoes with poise, as UMHB turned the ball over just eight times.
“That’s where having a guy like DJ Kane is big,” Carroll said of the senior, who had five points in 10 minutes of action. “He’s a bench player, but we really trust him to come in there and settle the game down for us.”
The home crowd made its presence known
One of the intangibles that no doubt played a role was the atmosphere inside the Mayborn Campus Center, with a large crowd in attendance. It was not just the size of the turnout, but also the vocal nature of the home crowd that helped restore the momentum in UMHB’s favor in the final minutes.
With 20 seconds left, Luke Feely took a pass in the paint and went one-on-one against his defender, laying the ball off the glass as he was fouled, giving the Cru a 93-92 lead on the layup. The roar was deafening as the ball fell through the net, and that was just one example.
“Our crowds are awesome. It’s a lot of fun when you keep them on the edge of their seats. The crowd is special and hopefully we gave them a little bit of a show. But they help us. We don’t win that game without our home crowd.”
ETBU is next on the schedule, the only other team in the ASC besides Concordia with a win over the Cru this season. The Tigers are 9-2 in conference play.
“They’re a tough matchup for us because of their size,” Carroll said. “But it’s the same gameplan. We have to fight, and do well in the paint. We’re looking forward to it.”