Photo by Luke Zayas
BELTON-The UMHB men’s basketball team’s ASC Tournament run ended prematurely on Friday night.
The top-seeded Crusaders (21-5 overall) were defeated by No. 4 seed Hardin-Simmons (19-8 overall) by a score of 78-71, stunned in front of a home crowd in the ASC Tournament semifinals.
“We showed up just to play a game, [HSU] showed up to win a game,” UMHB head coach Clif Carroll said disappointedly postgame.
Josiah Johnson led the Cru with 16 points, and Ty Prince had 13, but both struggled offensively for much of the night, and as a team, UMHB had issues gaining traction when it came to scoring. UMHB shot 32.4 percent from the field, and made just 6 of 22 3-point attempts, outscored by the Cowboys in both halves.
“My hat’s off to [HSU head coach] Matt Brackett,” Carroll said. “I knew he was going to have a great game plan. I tried to explain to [our guys], ‘This is a team that’s going to come after you.’ But we came out flat.”
UMHB’s NCAA Tournament hopes will now be decided by the national committee, as the Crusaders will be in contention for one of 20 at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament field, which is set to be announced Monday.
With 5:40 remaining in the second half, a comeback was in the works for the Cru, with a 13-4 scoring run capped by Prince’s jumper that cut HSU’s lead to just seven points, 67-60. With 2:57 left, Johnson swished his second 3-pointer of the night, coming with five points of the Cowboys advantage.
But that was the closest UMHB came to regaining the lead, as HSU scored the game’s next four points, providing enough separation for the victory.
“We just let Hardin-Simmons run so far away that we couldn’t come back to them,” Carroll said.
The second half began with a fastbreak layup from Jason Justice, setting the tone for the first 10 minutes as HSU quickly built its lead to double-digits, going up 41-30 on Steven Quinn’s 3-pointer. By the 15:58 mark, the 11-point lead had grown to 13, as the Cowboys led 47-34. Jamison Bosch’s jumper just over two minutes later extended the advantage to 17, and in that moment the chances of victory for UMHB appeared pretty bleak.
Then came the comeback. The intensity picked up, and so did the home-court energy inside the Mayborn Center. But it came a few minutes too late. HSU’s double-digit deficit, built in the opening minutes of the first half, kept the Cowboys in the lead for good.
“We came down in the first couple possessions [of the game] and Josiah hurt his wrist,” Carroll said. “I don’t know how bad it is hurt, but it’s hurt. He doesn’t deal well with stuff like that, and he was being bodied around. And Ty’s back was bothering him today. We didn’t do a good enough job of overcoming some of those discomforts to try to get the win.”
HSU took the lead right out of the gate in the opening half, literally racing out to a 4-0 lead within the first minute, as the Cowboys pushed the ball in transition. Nathan Stolz converted on UMHB’s first shot of the night, cutting the HSU lead in half, 4-2.
With 16:21 left, Prince converted on his only 3-pointer of the night, knotting the score at seven apiece. The lead for HSU never grew beyond two points in the three minutes that followed, before Johnson connected on a 3-pointer of his own, off an assist from D.J. Kane, giving UMHB its first lead, and as it turned out, its last lead of the half, with 13:06 to go, up 14-11.
UMHB tied it twicemore in the opening half, and even after HSU took a 22-18 lead, Gibson Hearne issued a swift counter for the Cru, swishing a three-pointer from the left corner that cut the deficit to a single point. But a 5-2 run from the Cowboys soonafter gave the visitors from Abilene a four-point lead once again, and HSU tallied six of the half’s final eight points, up 36-30 at halftime.
That parlayed into the second half, where HSU outscored the Cru, 42-41. UMHB led for just 31 seconds of the game, all 31 seconds being in the opening half.
“We’ve had so many great comebacks [this year],” Carroll said, “but we just didn’t have it in us tonight.”
UMHB stat leaders
Points: Josiah Johnson (16), Ty Prince (13), Luke Feely (9)
Rebounds: Josiah Johnson (9), Luke Feely (8), Nathan Stolz (6), Gibson Hearne (6)
Assists: Kyle Wright (3), Josiah Johnson (3)