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Cru women beat UT-Dallas for first NCAA Sweet 16

Posted at 4:30 PM, Mar 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-03 17:30:39-05

RICHARDSON, TX — The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor women’s basketball team used a smothering first-half defensive effort to build a big lead and the Cru withstood a furious UT Dallas comeback bid as UMHB held off the Comets 66-57 in the Second Round of the NCAA Division III National Championships Saturday in Richardson. The Cru now advances to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history.

Kelly Skinner’s three-pointer, Raenett Hughes’ jumper and a Katie Gunter three to open the fourth pulled UTD to within 49-43. Victoria Pena would go to the line and hit a free-throw to cut it to 49-44, the closest the Comets had been since it was 7-2 in the opening period. Kendall Rollins hit a jumper and added two free-throws on the next trip to push the lead back to 53-44 with 6:53 remaining. UTD had multiple chances to cut the lead to three, but the UMHB defense stepped up each time and pushed the lead back out to six. Pena would hit a pair of free-throws to make it a four-point game with 2:54 left to play. Blackwell answered with two free-throws to make it a six-point game with 1:19 to go, but Pena buried a three at the other end to make it 58-55. Holt’s lay-up made it a five-point game with 40 seconds to play. Mia Spennato cut it to 60-57 with two free-throws with 29.1 remaining, but Blackwell hit two from the stripe to make it a two-possession game with 26.7 to play. UTD came up empty on a three-point attempt and Blackwell iced it with two more free-throws with 8.8 to play. The Comets converted multiple field goals in a quarter for the first time in the third period, but by then, the UMHB lead had grown to 21 points. UTD did battle back and cut the gap to 45-31 on a Tyra Banks bucket to cap a 7-0 run with 3:13 left in the period. The Cru led 49-35 going into the final period with more than half of the Comets’ points coming from the stripe.

After slow starts plagued the team in the last four games, UMHB dominated the first quarter. The Cru built a double-digit lead by holding the Comets without a basket for the first 7:43 of the game. UT Dallas missed its first 13 shots from the field and went 0-6 from three-point range in the first ten minutes. UMHB led 16-4 after the first quarter as Hannah Holt scored seven points. UTD stayed cold from the field but used a huge free-throw advantage to climb back into the contest in the second quarter. The Comets pulled to within 22-14 on a pair of Hughes free-throws with 5:04 left in the first half. The Cru responded with a 7-0 run to take a 15-point lead with Kendall Rollins scoring five of those points. Alicia Blackwell buried a jumper with six seconds left to give UMHB its biggest lead of the game at 33-16 going to halftime. The Comets shot 14 free-throws in the first half compared to just three for the Cru. The UMHB defense also held UTD to just 2-29 from the field in the opening half and the Comets were 0-10 from long-range. Seven different players scored for the Cru while just three Comets put points on the board going into halftime.

Blackwell led the Cru with 21 points including 9-10 from the stripe. Holt and Rollins added 13 points apiece and Holt had a game-high 10 rebounds. UMHB shot 44 percent from the field and hit 14-17 from the free-throw line.

Pena led the Comets with 25 points with 14 of those coming from the line. Hughes added 17 points and eight rebounds before fouling out. No other UTD player scored more than five points. The Comets shot 19 percent from the field as a team and hit 20 percent from beyond the arc. UTD went 26-32 from the free-throw line to stay in the game.

The Cru improves to 27-3 with the victory and extends its NCAA Division III era record for wins in a season. The loss ends UTD’s season at 25-5. The two teams were playing for the third time this season with UMHB winning two games on the Comets’ home floor.
UMHB will now face Washington-St. Louis is the Third Round next Friday. The Bears advanced with an 86-78 victory over George Fox. The site for that game will be announced on Sunday.