BELTON — Ten players scored at least four points for Mary Hardin-Baylor, which got double-digit production from three reserves off the bench. It was the latest example in a growing trend of the Lady Crusaders getting more output from more players.
UMHB led by 10 points less than 8 minutes in and was hardly threatened Wednesday night at Mayborn Campus Center, pulling away to a 93-68 victory that was almost as uncompetitive as the final score indicated.
It was the fourth win in the last five games for the Lady Crusaders (10-4, 3-2 American Southwest Conference), who got 56 points from their bench as their first-year players have continued to blossom since the holiday break.
“Ultimately, our team settled into each other,” said junior guard Antoinette Iroko, a first-year transfer from Lubbock Christian who was 5-of-6 from the floor and finished with 13 points. “Having that Christmas break rest helped to get everybody back to playing more like we did in the beginning at open gym, playing free basketball. We’re having a lot of fun playing basketball, and it’s taken a lot of pressure off.”
UMHB got seven points each from Kendall Rollins and Alicia Blackwell in the first quarter to build a 10-point lead and was up by as many as 12 in the second, before ETBU (2-12, 0-7) made a run. Two 3-pointers from reserve center Lainey Lee and one each by Hannah Holt and Kaitlyn Packet helped the Tigers trim the gap to 42-36 by halftime.
It was as close as ETBU would get.
The Lady Crusaders opened the second half in a full-court press and half-court zone defense, utilizing the changes to put together a 9-0 run that pushed the lead back to double digits. The Tigers got within 51-42 midway through the third quarter, before a 7-0 UMHB surge extended the lead to double figures for good.
“We want to keep people off-balance,” second-year UMHB coach Mark Morefield said. “We want to use (the press and the zone) in different increments of the game to get people to either waste a timeout or use up two or three possessions to adjust.”
Freshman starting guard Kendall Rollins had a game-high 17 points for the Lady Crusaders, who got 13 points from freshman forward Tashyra Banks and 12 from freshman guard Alicia Blackwell – two more reserves.
“Since we came back from the break, we’ve had more time to practice that we really didn’t have before the break,” Banks said. “That practice time has helped everybody get comfortable with each other on the floor, and there’s some chemistry there now.”
Holt had 12 points and Amanda Wilson added 10 for the Tigers, who shot 40 percent from the floor compared to 47 percent for the Lady Crusaders.
UMHB has lost only twice since the end of November and heads into a four-game road stretch brimming with confidence that comes from a suddenly deep roster.
“A lot of our newcomers have adjusted to the flow of the offense and the flow of the defense. They’re getting used to our philosophy and our style of play,” said Morefield, whose team plays at Concordia Texas on Saturday followed by three road games next week. “We needed time to get some girls into the flow, offensively and defensively. Now the new girls are ready to step in and they’re getting into their comfort zone a little bit.
“We challenged some of them going into the break, and they’ve stepped it up to another level.”