CRU Steamrolls Hardin-Simmons for sixth straight victory
By C.J. Halloran
When asked about the ASC’s (American Southwest Conference) new rule of basing tournament qualifiers on win percentage instead of overall wins, Coach Clif Carroll was straight forward.
“It is what it is, but if you win them all, then they’re not gonna keep you out of the tournament,” Carroll said. “If you win them all, you’re gonna be champion. It sounds crazy, but that’s the goal for this team.”
Though every coach aims for his team to go undefeated, Coach Carroll took that mindset seriously and has coached the Crusaders to six victories in a row. Their victory came by way of a dominating 91-65 performance against Hardin-Simmons on Saturday, Jan. 30.
One of the main arguments that critics of the CRU expressed was based on the team’s slow start, but the Crusaders shut that critique down against Hardin Simmons. UMHB opened the game on a 16-2 run that gave them a lead that did not change hands for the entirety of the game.
The CRU absolutely dominated the offensive side of the ball, shooting 56% as a team. Josiah Johnson continued his hot streak, scoring 34 points and picking up 12 rebounds, while 6’5” guard Ty Prince also picked up a double-double, scoring 22 points with 12 rebounds.
The Crusaders showed out on the defensive end of the ball as well, holding the Cowboys to 34% shooting and 22 turnovers.
Though one would imagine the team and Coach Carroll to be ecstatic after such a huge victory, they were all business. Coach Carroll went so far as to say he was unhappy with the CRU’s second half.
“Today, we relaxed,” Coach Carroll said. “We lost our focus [in the second half]… I would rather us keep two feet on the ground and two hands on the ball [as opposed to some especially acrobatic passing from the CRU in the second half].
“Acrobatic turns into 27 turnovers… you can’t win championships turning it over 27 times,” Carroll said.
Though the comments may seem harsh with such a dominant victory, the team shares this mentality and with it comes a hunger that can’t be quenched by any individual victory. The Crusaders have their eyes on one goal: the championship, and they refuse to let anyone get in their way.
CRU Basketball blows by Belhaven
By C.J. Halloran
In a season where the American Southwest (ASC) playoffs are determined by win percentage instead of overall wins, the Crusader basketball team decided to leave no room for doubt as they continued their winning streak against Belhaven University on Saturday, Jan. 16.
Belhaven is no pushover team, holding a 3-3 record against the CRU, but they proved no match for UMHB’s offense. The Blazers took an early lead against the CRU and held it for much of the first half, but the tide began to shift in the final minutes of the first half, with their momentum being completely halted by Josiah Johnson’s half-court buzzer beater that gave the Crusaders a 4-point lead at the end of the half.
After such a strong ending to the half, UMHB came into the second half looking to use their newfound momentum, and they succeeded. Belhaven found themselves helpless as the Crusaders opened the second half with a 25-12 run and took a 17-point lead early. The Crusaders continued their high intensity offense to extend the lead to 25 points before bringing in the bench players and cruising to an 18 point victory.
Josiah Johnson continued his dominant streak on the court, going 10-19 and putting up 34 points with eight rebounds. Guard Carson Hammond also excelled on the court, recording his first double-double of the season with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Center Aedan Welch dominated the paint with 17 points, six rebounds and four assists, while shooting guard Kobe Richardson scored thrice from beyond the arc and scored 12 for the CRU.
Belhaven’s guard Luke Couch shot 10-16 on the night, putting up the game high 37 points. The CRU would next face a pair of away games against Hardin Simmons and McMurry.
UMHB surpasses Louisiana College
By C.J. Halloran
After a fall semester of no college sports, the UMHB student body and fan base were itching to watch some action, and their wait was finally over on January 14.
On that Thursday, the CRU basketball team faced off against Louisiana College for the first home game with the student body in the stands, and the CRU did not disappoint. The Crusaders got caught in a back-and-forth shootout with Louisiana College, but managed to pull away in the final ten seconds for a 74-71 victory.
The Crusaders struggled early on with the Wildcats’ trap defense and gave up numerous turnovers, an issue Coach Clif Carroll has found with the team all season. The CRU were able to battle back, thanks to 11 points from the free throw line, and they went into the second half up 37-33.
UMHB started the second half hot, increasing their lead to the largest of the game at 54-44. The Wildcats refused to be counted out, however, and took a 13-4 run that kept the score within five points for the remainder of the game.
Louisiana College took the lead late in the second half before Carson Hammond hit a clutch 3-pointer with 1:36 left in the game to push UMHB ahead 70-68. The Wildcats tried to battle back but were denied a comeback once sophomore Josiah Johnson scored four points from the free throw line in the final minute.
Johnson dominated the offensive side of play with 14 rebounds and 28 points, 16 of which came from the free throw line. With 79 points from the line in seven games, Johnson currently leads the nation in made free throws.
Possibly the biggest positive coming out of this game for the Crusaders was the depth that their roster showed. When Johnson was off the court, guards Kyle Wright and Carson Hammond stepped up, putting up a combined 20 points and shifting the momentum of the game in the Crusaders’ favor multiple times.
“Carson’s been good all year,” Coach Carroll said. “We’re playing him out of position… when we get our main ball handlers back next week, you’re gonna see him make a lot more shots.”
The ASC took action this offseason and enforced a new rule, basing the conference tournament qualifiers on win percentage rather than overall wins. That being said, starting at a 100% win rate is huge for the CRU and something Coach Carroll set as the main goal for the team this season.
“If you win them all, they’re not gonna keep you out of the [playoff] tournament,” Carroll said.
This victory improved the CRU to 4-3 overall on the season and 1-0 in the ASC. They played one more home game against rival Belhaven University on Saturday, Jan. 16 before hitting the road for a pair of games against Hardin-Simmons in Abilene.