Above photo by Russell Marwitz/True To The Cru/russellmarwitz.com
ABILENE, Texas- Unselfishness is a remarkable trait found within a team. It is also a vital component to success.
For the UMHB men’s basketball team, it has been the unselfish nature of a squad filled with scorers and playmakers that has led the Cru back into the Top 25, now ranked No. 19, and to the program’s second straight 20-win season, which was accomplished Thursday night.
Five Crusaders ended up scoring in double figures in the 97-79 win at McMurry, led by Nathan Stolz who had 18 points. Josiah Johnson had 16. Andrew Schultz had 13. Ty Prince, who connected on the go-ahead score in the first meeting of the season against the Warhawks, tallied 12, and Luke Feely added 10 more. While ASC opponents used to simply key in on Johnson and Prince to slow the UMHB offensive attack, they are finding out the hard way that is not an adequate game plan any longer.
“Like everybody else, they tried to load up on Josiah and Ty,” UMHB head coach Clif Carroll said postgame. “Every time one of them would get the ball, they’d load up. Tonight, Nate had it going and Drew got it going. Luke was getting to the rim pretty much whenever he wanted in the first half.”
It has been a notable improvement over the course of the season, with how many players have stepped up in the scoring column. And that has taken a certain amount of maturity on the part of everyone on the roster, including Johnson, who has taken on an unselfish attitude as one of the team’s most recognizable leaders, according to Carroll.
“It goes to show that we’re more worried about winning than accolades,” Carroll said of the unselfishness found of his roster, particularly in top scorers like Johnson, who have put the team above any individual records or stats. “That’s how you have to be if you’re going to win a national championship.”
The Crusaders were locked step-for-step with the Warhawks for much of the first 10 minutes, with the two tied at 24 apiece by the 9:12 mark. Then Stolz connected on a three-pointer, and it sparked a 13-4 run from UMHB, capped by Prince’s layup with 4:14 left. Johnson’s three-pointer with 30 seconds remaining made it 52-38 at halftime, and UMHB only widened the gap in the second half.
The lead stretched to as many as 20 points, 83-63, with just over seven minutes to play, on the second of Johnson’s two free throws. The Crusaders were a perfect 11-of-11 from the free throw line in the win, backing up their standing as the ASC’s No. 1 team at the line.
“We really started attacking the basket, and then took away some of [McMurry’s] transition buckets,” Carroll said of the big first half scoring run. “We did a better job of getting back [on defense] and making it hard for them to score. It was nothing real sophisticated, just a matter of us playing with more energy and creating some turnovers.”
UMHB heads into the regular season finale at Hardin-Simmons on Saturday afternoon, aiming to pull out a victory in a gym they have not won in since January of 2021. What is on the line for the Cru is clear: win and UMHB hosts the final two rounds of the ASC Tournament, not to mention claiming at least a share of the conference’s regular season title. But victory will not come easily.
“It’s really tough to play at Hardin-Simmons,” Carroll said. “It’s always a tough game for us. Matt Brackett does a nice job of getting his team ready to play. Steven Quinn is playing on senior night [for HSU] and getting close to breaking their scoring record. He’s going to be motivated. It’s going to be a classic HSU-UMHB battle.”
UMHB is now 20-4 overall, 15-2 in American Southwest Conference play.
UMHB stat leaders
Points: Nathan Stolz (18), Josiah Johnson (16), Andrew Schultz (13)
Rebounds: Ty Prince (7), Josiah Johnson (6), Nathan Stolz, Luke Feely, D.J. Kane (4)
Assists: Ty Prince (6), Kyle Wright (5), Josiah Johnson (4)