BELTON — Hardin-Simmons shot itself back into the game late in the second half before eventually shooting itself in the foot. And when the Cowboys delivered their self-inflicted wound, Mary Hardin-Baylor knew exactly what to do.
Hardin-Simmons’ Ryan Chaney committed an intentional foul away from the ball with 52 seconds remaining, and UMHB went 6-of-6 from the free throw line the rest of the way to turn a six-point lead into a 105-93 victory Saturday afternoon at Mayborn Campus Center.
The Cowboys had a chance to get within four points with 1:27 left, but Brian Long blocked Joe Hoeup’s close-range attempt. After Aubrie King missed a 3-pointer on the other end, Long grabbed the offensive rebound, made a quick pass and was fouled 8 seconds later by Chaney.
Long made both free throws for a 101-93 lead, and the Crusaders retained possession of the ball. Braden Hammond tacked on two free throws 17 seconds later, and the Cowboys had empty possessions sandwiched around two more Long foul shots for the final tally.
It was an entertaining finish to a contest that was only close for the first few and last few minutes.
UMHB (16-6, 9-5 American Southwest Conference) used an 18-1 run to build a 15-point advantage with 5:35 left in the opening half and stretched the lead to as many as 24 points 2 minutes after intermission.
The Crusaders were still up by 19 with 6 minutes to go, before the Cowboys made four 3-pointers in a span of 2:44 to get within six.
“We just had to buckle down defensively and run out to cover the shooters,” UMHB senior guard Demarius Cress said. “Some of those shots were contested and some weren’t. Even on the contested ones, they knocked them down.”
Hardin-Simmons (8-14, 6-8) was 10-for-20 from 3-point range in the second half and 14-of-35 for the afternoon.
“You have to give them credit because they made some tough threes,” Crusaders coach Ken DeWeese said. “They just made some shots, and things weren’t going our way on the other end.”
Hoeup scored a game-high 31 points, and Caleb Spoon hit six 3s as part of his 25 points for the Cowboys, who won the teams’ meeting in Abilene last month.
Long and Sam Moore produced double-doubles for UMHB, which shot 52 percent from the field. Long finished with 25 points and 12 rebounds, and Moore had 23 points and 11 boards.
LaKendric Hyson added 20 points, Cress 14 and Shaq Martin 10 for the Crusaders, who matched their season-high scoring total and broke the 100-point barrier for the fourth time this season.
“We’re so versatile. Teams try to switch (on the screens) but they can’t switch because we have another person who can do the same thing that I can do,” Cress said. “We have so many weapons from the post to the perimeter that we’re a hard team to guard.”
It was the final home game for Hammond, Aubrie King and Justin Gammill — UMHB’s senior trio. Next for the Crusaders, who have a one-game lead over Concordia Texas for second place in the ASC West Division and trail leader Sul Ross State by 2½ games, are three straight contests on the road to end the regular season. That stretch starts next Saturday at Concordia.
“Concordia is a tough place to play, and then we follow that with a tough trip,” DeWeese said. “What we have coming up is more exhausting mentally than physically. These young guys could drive to California and back and not be worn out.”