BELTON — Brandon Blake had the hot hand in the first half Thursday.Greg Pulliam had it during the second. Marlon Miller had it the entire game.

Blake and Pulliam combined for 46 points, keeping Mississippi College within striking distance of Mary Hardin-Baylor. Miller finished with 36 and the nation’s 12th-ranked team walked off with an 84-70 win at the Mayborn Campus Center to stay unbeaten. “I actually thought we were going to up more way earlier than we were so I thought I was going to sit more,” said Miller, who admitted to being a little under the weather despite playing all but four minutes.

“But I guess not. They shot the ball well, so I guess they needed me to stay in.”

UMHB head coach Ken DeWeese agreed with Miller’s assessments.

“It pained me that I couldn’t take him out more,” DeWeese said.

MC (1-5, 1-5 American Southwest Conference) shot 53.4 percent from the floor.

Blake entered the game without a 3-pointer but made one with seven minutes left in the first half and another in the final seconds to cut UMHB’s double-digit lead back to eight at the break.

The Crusaders (7-0, 5-0) did adjust to Blake, who scored 18 points in the first half. He drew a lot more attention and scored just two points the rest of the way before fouling out with 1:54 to play.UMHB’s defense actually kept the Choctaws off the scoreboard for the second half’s opening 3:34.

That’s where Pulliam picked up the slack, driving to the basket time and time again. Of his team-high 26 points, only four came from either the 3-point or foul line.

“We didn’t guard them real bad — it’s not we left them open. They just made shots,” DeWeese said. “I told the guys the other day, ‘That’s the best 1-4 team I’ve ever seen.’ Now I know — it’s the best 1-5 team I’ve ever seen.”

But MC couldn’t close the gap, getting as close as six before Miller kept finding the bottom of the net.A Pulliam layup made it 63-57 with 6:28 left in the game, but he missed the and-one opportunity and James Allen answered with a 3 on the other end.

Miller added a jumper to stretch the lead back to double digits before the Choctaws came back with four straight. He then added a long jumper and a one of his four 3-pointers between a Sterling Phillips jumper, and UMHB took a commanding 75-61 lead with 3:10 left.

“Everything was in the offense really – all of my shots were pretty much open,” Miller said. “I don’t remember shooting in no one’s face. Maybe once, but they were just all open shots.”

Mississippi College 58, UMHB 48 — With a scoring offense that ranks last in the American Southwest Conference, UMHB didn’t do much to fix their woes.

That included a stretch of more than 15 minutes to start the second half in which the Lady Crusaders (1-7, 0-5) scored just 10 points. The lack of offensive punch canceled out UMHB’s rebounding edge (35-33).

“It’s really frustrating that we can’t get it in the hole,” UMHB coach Kim Kirkpatrick-Thornton said. “We had too many turnovers in this game again. That’s hurting us a little, but really the biggest deal is not being able to get it in the hole.”

Starters Brittany Zamora, Gabby Guzman and Jovana Miles went a combined 4-of-17 from the floor and played 10 minutes total in the second half UMHB continued looking for the right combination. Samara Williams led the way with nine points.

Caitlin Brown and Ebony Williams led Mississippi College (4-3, 4-2) with 12 points each.

“We don’t have it figured out and I feel like it’s pretty obvious that we don’t have it figured out,” Kirkpatrick-Thornton said. “But we’re going to keep working at it.”

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