The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor men’s basketball team used a hot-shooting second half to grab a lead and the Cru was able to hold on down the stretch in an 80-74 victory over Howard Payne Saturday in Belton. The UMHB victory, coupled with Concordia’s win over Sul Ross State clinches a berth in the American Southwest Conference Championship Tournament for the Cru. UMHB is now 15-8 overall and 8-6 in ASC play. The loss drops the Yellow Jackets to 12-11 overall and 8-7 in the ASC on the year.
UMHB opened the second half with a hot start and built a seven-point lead with 13:07 left to play. The lead would grow to 11 points at 73-62 with 3:42 remaining. Howard Payne answered with a 12-3 run to cut the gap to 76-74 with 47 seconds to go, but the Cru held the Yellow Jackets scoreless the rest of the way and added two free throws from Demarius Cress and two more from Aubrie King in the final seconds to put the game out of reach. The Cru shot 50 percent from the field as a team in the second half and hit 5-9 from three-point range in that period. UMHB’s defense limited HPU to 26 percent shooting and 5-14 from beyond the arc in the second half. Howard Payne hit six of its first 10 three-point tries in the first half and held a 39-38 edge at halftime. There were eight ties and eight lead changes in the first half.
Daniel Mills led the Cru with 29 points and he scored 22 of those in the first half. Mills also grabbed nine rebounds and added three steals. Cress finished with 24 points and Braden Hammond chipped in ten. Austen Stolte pulled down a team-best 11 rebounds and blocked four shots. UMHB shot 45 percent overall as a team and went 20-26 from the free-throw line.
Khyce Randall had a game-high 30 points to lead Howard Payne and he grabbed eight boards. De’Marcus Hurd scored 16 points before fouling out in the final seconds and Rickey Guillory added 11 points of the bench. J Bailey totaled 13 rebounds as the Yellow Jackets posted a narrow 45-44 edge on the boards. HPU shot 34 percent from the floor and went 11-28 from beyond the arc in the loss.
Cru Head Coach Ken DeWeese notched his 750th victory as a collegiate head coach in the win. DeWeese has 346 wins at UMHB and won 404 games in 16 seasons at McLennan Community College. The game was the final home game for UMHB seniors Daniel Mills, Avery Polchinski and Austen Stolte. The Cru will close out the regular season with a pair of games in Abilene next week. UMHB will take on McMurry University Thursday night before closing out the regular season at Hardin-Simmons University next Saturday.