BELTON — Mary Hardin-Baylor needs to have a short memory after Sul Ross State’s Tristen Licon hit a long shot to break the Crusaders’ hearts Saturday afternoon.
UMHB guard Demarius Cress missed two free throws with 3½ seconds remaining, and Licon banked in a 38-footer as the buzzer sounded to stun the Crusaders and lift the Lobos to a 97-95 victory at Mayborn Campus Center.
Cress made a pair of foul shots with 21.9 seconds left to put UMHB up 95-92, before B.J. Hollis answered with a driving bucket to make it a one-point game with 7 seconds to go.
After the ensuing long inbounds pass, Cress went to the line again and missed both attempts. Sul Ross State’s Jola Otubu grabbed the rebound and passed the ball to Licon, who caught it near midcourt, took two quick dribbles and let fly the winning shot from near the left sideline.
“I caught it, said a prayer and just let it go,” said Licon, a freshman guard whose last-second miss in a playoff game as a high school senior ended the season for his El Paso Americas team. “It felt good when I released it. I guess the bank was open.
“I was pretty down after I missed that one my senior year, so it felt great to make this one and get the win.”
It was a shocking finish after the Crusaders (14-6, 7-5 American Southwest Conference) had rallied from 14 points down midway through the second half.
There were two key moments in their 19-3 run that got them back in the game. The first was five consecutive free throws by Aubrie King after he was fouled by Conner Dawson on a 3-point attempt, and Dawson’s remark to the official was met with a technical foul. The second was back-to-back 3s by King and Cress that capped the surge and put UMHB up 77-75 with 6:09 remaining.
There were four ties and five lead changes — the last coming on Licon’s buzzer-beater — over the final 6 minutes.
The Lobos (15-5, 10-2), who were beaten by Concordia Texas in the final seconds Thursday night to have their 12-game win streak snapped, shot 56 percent from the field. Guard Stephen Walker scored a game-high 31 points, Caleb Thomasson added 16, Licon finished with 12, and Otubu and Gary Ringo chipped in 10 each.
“Sul Ross played very well,” said UMHB coach Ken DeWeese, whose team remained tied for second in the ASC West Division but slipped three games back of leader Sul Ross State. “They shot some shots we wanted them to shoot from the people we wanted to shoot them, and they made them. They had some guys that made some shots on us.”
Forward Brian Long, a junior transfer from UTEP, scored 29 points for UMHB, which got 17 from Cress, 16 from King and 14 from LaKendric Hyson. The Crusaders shot 49 percent from the field but just 68 percent from the foul line.
“If we make those two (free throws) at the end, we were going to foul in the backcourt and make them do something extra special,” DeWeese said. “It didn’t happen, but that’s a guy I want on the line.”
UMHB has two contests remaining on a five-game homestand. The Crusaders host McMurry on Thursday and Hardin-Simmons next Saturday before closing the regular season with three straight road games, including a rematch with the Lobos in Alpine on Feb. 15.
“This one hurts today, but we should bounce back tomorrow, have a good mindset and keep looking forward. We get another chance to play them at their place,” Long said. “This was one bad game. We didn’t do well on defense so we have to do better next time and move forward.”