BELTON — Two nights after it was worked over in a conference-opening loss, No. 11-ranked Mary Hardin Baylor went back to work and righted itself with a 72-68 victory over Howard Payne on Saturday night at Mayborn Campus Center.

“I thought our mental state was better,” Crusaders coach Ken DeWeese said.

“The other night, we were just soft. I don’t know any other way to put it. I didn’t think we were soft tonight.

“We stood around a few times. We got beat defensively when we shouldn’t have a few times. But I didn’t think we were soft.”

UMHB (3-2, 1-1 American Southwest Conference) overcame a 35 percent shooting performance by producing 12 steals, limiting its turnovers to 10 and grabbing 18 of its 45 rebounds on the defensive end.

James Allen scored 20 points on just 4-of-13 shooting from the floor, and fellow senior guard Antonie Chaney had 19 despite going only 7-of-19. Senior forward Kitrick Bell added 16 points and 13 rebounds, and junior wing Jerard Graham pulled down 14 boards to offset his 3-of-18 showing from the field.

“The focus was to be tougher. We came out with a lot more intensity this game,” said Bell, who shot 6-for-8. “We don’t like to lose and face the wrath of Coach. We certainly didn’t want to drop two in a row with a long week ahead until the next game. Practice would not have been fun.”

The Yellow Jackets (1-5, 1-4) led by six points early, trailed by as many as 13 in the second half, and then got as close as one point in the closing seconds.

Down by five with 17 seconds remaining, Howard Payne got two free throws from Brandon Gould and a steal and layup from Donovan Ford in a span of 4 seconds to cut it to 69-68 with 13 seconds to go.

UMHB closed it out with two Allen free throws and one by Graham, capping a 16-of-24 effort from the foul line two days after an 11-for-24 performance cost the Crusaders dearly in a home loss to Sul Ross State.

“Where were those five free throws the other night?” DeWeese asked. “We would have won that one too if we had made five more free throws.”

The Crusaders built their double-digit cushion with an 8-2 spurt to start the second half and scored more frequently in transition, something they failed to do in Thursday’s loss.

“We were coming up with the ball, which was something we couldn’t do Thursday night because we were so sluggish,” said DeWeese, whose team doesn’t play again until visiting Concordia Texas next Saturday in Austin.

“Tonight, we came up with the loose ball and created loose balls and that’s what put us in break situations.”

Donovan Ford scored 26 points, and Brandon Gould had 14 points and 10 rebounds for Howard Payne.

HOWARD PAYNE WOMEN 81, UMHB 66: In a 40-minute basketball game, it was a 5-minute span in the second half that showed why Howard Payne is a perennial contender for the conference title and just how far Mary Hardin-Baylor has to go to reach that plateau.

Howard Payne erased a six-point deficit with a 16-0 run and never looked back on its way to an 81-66 victory over UMHB.

The Lady Crusaders (1-4, 1-1 American Southwest Conference) pulled even with the Lady jackets (5-1, 4-1) just before halftime and built a 42-36 lead by the 16:45 mark of the second half. It was all downhill from there for UMHB, which was outscored 45-24 the rest of the way.

“We had a good first half. I think we got mentally drained in the second half,” second-year UMHB coach Lisa Curliss-Taylor said. “Our defense is what kept us in it in the first half, and then we just kind of laid back and let them do what they want to do.”

What Howard Payne wanted was for Danyel Bradley to take over, and she didn’t disappoint. The sophomore guard scored 17 of her 27 points in the second half, when she had all five of her assists.

“We were supposed to get over and help a little quicker on (Bradley),” Curliss-Taylor said. “We had a plan for her, but we just kept backing up and letting her get to the rim. She was huge for them. Our intensity just wasn’t there.”

Junior forward Taylor Tucker had a game-high 28 points and 11 rebounds and senior center Jovana Miles added 12 points for UMHB, which grabbed 51 rebounds that included 25 on the offensive end.

The work on the offensive glass was of little consequence, though, for the Lady Crusaders because of a dismal 33 percent (26-of-79) shooting effort from the field.

“It happens. We’re a young team,” Curliss-Taylor said of the shooting funk. “We’re going to be up-and-down. It’s just going to happen. It’s not an excuse. It’s just reality.”

UMHB doesn’t play again until traveling to face Concordia Texas next Saturday in Austin.

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