BELTON — For a majority of Friday night’s Cru Holiday Classic contest inside Mayborn Campus Center, Mary Hardin-Baylor played catch up. But after stringing together a 25-11 second-half run, the Crusaders captured a two-point lead with 6:02 left in the game and held on for an 81-79 comeback victory over the Milwaukee School of Engineering.
“I didn’t think our defensive effort was great, but it was good and improved in the second half,” UMHB coach Ken DeWeese said. “We didn’t rebound like I wanted but we got steals and did a good job at times of holding their big guy in check. (MSOE’s) offense is pretty diverse and they do a great job of getting the ball to who they want. That’s part of why we fell behind.”
Three straight buckets by the Raiders’ Jason Palesse, combined with 3-for-6 free throw shooting by UMHB in the final minute, gave MSOE a shot to tie or win it with less than 10 seconds left. Matthew Kirmse — who led the Raiders with 22 points, including 6-of-14 from 3-point range — was off target on a last-second 3-pointer that hit off the backboard as the clock expired.
“It’s hard to win when you get beat on the boards like we did. That’s hard to explain if I’m the other coach,” DeWeese said. “I got to give credit to my guys. They could have mailed it in and just tried to make it respectable. But they fought, worked it to the basket and got stops at the end.”
A steal resulting in a breakaway layup by Sam Moore, followed by Brian Long’s layup plus the foul 30 seconds later turned a 62-59 deficit into a 64-62 lead for the Crusaders. Tegan Miles sank a pair of free throws to recapture to lead for the Raiders, 71-70, but an up-and-under bucket in the post by Long gave the advantage back to UMHB and Aubrie King hit his second clutch 3-pointer in the final 3 minutes of the game to extend the lead to 75-71.
Four Crusaders finished the game with double-digit scoring. LaKendric Hyson led the Crusaders with 16 points and dished out three flashy assists. Demarius Cress just missed a double-double with 15 points and nine assists. Moore followed up his 27-point performance from Thursday night with 14 points on 5-of-15 shooting and four steals against the Raiders.
But it was Long who secured the victory down the stretch for UMHB. Thirteen of his 15 points came in the second half, as his post score pushed UMHB’s lead to three after two missed MSOE free throws and his corner 3 taken in front of the Crusaders’ bench made it a 78-73 game with 1:05 left. Long made two of four free throws in the final 40 seconds and Moore went 1-for-2 from the charity stripe with 9 seconds left to secure the two-point win.
“(Long) got going for them. He was a beast in the post and then that three really hurt us. I felt like this game was going to come down to some guy making plays and hitting shots,” MSOE coach Brian Miller said. “In the end, it’s tough to win on the road against good teams.”
UMHB could not buy a bucket in the first half, especially from beyond the arc. The Crusaders shot 34 percent and made just two of 14 attempts from 3-point range as they fell behind 23-12 midway through the first half. An 8-0 run made things close at 28-25, and Hyson answered a 3 by the Raiders with one of his own as the buzzer sounded to end the first half with UMHB trailing 36-32.
UMHB was outrebounded 25-17 at halftime and 44-31 for the game. MSOE’s starting center Miles totaled 16 points and nine rebounds, while Kirmse added a game-high 13 rebounds