The Crusader men’s basketball team played a tight first half against Texas Lutheran Dec. 5 at the Mayborn Campus Center, but the Crusaders weren’t able to overcome a blitzkrieg of Bulldog three-pointers.
The game was dead even for the first 12 minutes as the teams traded leads 14 times. The score was locked at 23 before TLU went on a 7-0 run to pull out in front 30-27 with 3:50 remaining in the first half.
But the Cru responded with a 6-0 run of their own. Freshman guard Demarius Cress was fouled as he hit a running floater and completed the 3-point play at the free throw line. On the next possession, Junior Avery Polchinski drained a three to make it a one point game at 30-29.
The Cru later gained a 33-32 advantage on a bucket from junior Daniel Mills. TLU would hit two free throws to retake the lead and add to it when freshman Paris Mauquez hit a buzzer beater to put the bulldogs up 36-33 at the half.
Both teams had trouble shooting in the second half, as both shot just 32 percent from the field. The difference was that TLU made all six of their free throw attempts while UMHB hit only 12 of 22.
“There’s no excuses,” said senior guard Layton Zinsmeister. “We’ve just got to get up there, be mentally tough and knock our free throws down.”
TLU shot attempted 16 3-pointers in the first half, but made just four of them. The Bulldogs got hot from behind the arc in the second half, however, as they hit 7 of 11. After a Crusader bucket to make it 36-35, TLU opened the half with four consecutive scores and extended the lead to 46-35.
Senior center Russell Green said the Crusaders weren’t as aggressive as they would have liked to be on defense.
“We let them shoot too many wide open threes. We gave them some looks,” Green said. “They like to play fast and get down the court, but so do we. We just didn’t match their intensity, especially on defense.”
Those 3-pointers proved to be too much for the Cru to handle as TLU stretched its lead to 16 at one point. UMHB was never able to cut the deficit to single digits as the Bulldogs cruised to the 81-71 win.
“The 3-point line has changed so many things. When a team makes two or three, for some reason, it gets them a little more excited and they start playing with a little more confidence,” UMHB Head Coach Ken DeWeese said. “[The 3-pointers] made a big difference in their competitiveness and it affected us negatively.”
The Cru was dealing with the effects of a recent road trip to Jackson, MS where they fell 96-88 in double overtime to Belhaven University. The team didn’t return to Belton until early Friday morning, but DeWeese said the less-than-ideal circumstances aren’t an excuses for the loss.
“We didn’t handle it emotionally like we needed to,” he said. “It’s probably one of the most difficult games to play when things are not going good. The harder you try to make a shot, sometimes it works in reverse. So we’ve just got to get a little tougher mentally.”
The Cru falls to 2-2 on the season and will return to the court Dec. 14 to host Schreiner University.