By Evan Mohl
Killeen Daily Herald
BELTON – It took the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor a while to get comfortable in their first ever American Southwest Conference Tournament game at the Mayborn Campus Center.
The No. 14 Crusaders came out tense and shot an uncharacteristic 35 percent in the first half, but finally got their legs 20 minutes into their quarterfinal game against East Baptist University en route to a relatively easy 66-50 victory.
"We came out tight," UMHB head coach Ken DeWeese said. "Part of it was ETBU; they played hard. Give them credit. But, it just took us some time to get comfortable."
The Cru is 14-0 at home this season and hasn't lost at the Mayborn Campus Center since December 2006.
After six lead changes in the first half, the Cru (23-3) came out of the locker room on an 8-2 run thanks to a suffocating defense. UMHB forced five ETBU (9-17) turnovers – including a shot clock violation – that led to six layups on the fast break.
The Cru defense held the Tigers' leading scorer, La'France Cooper, to just five points the entire game.
"We made some defensive adjustments in the second half," DeWeese said. "We gave them some different looks, something we do in practice a lot, and that gave them some problems."
ETBU would fight back and pull within three at 41-38, but a Ryan Burgart dunk nearly brought down the rafters and prompted another Cru run that would put the game away.
After Burgart's dunk and a Tiger basket, UMHB outscored ETBU 15-3, beginning with 9:33 remaining in the game. Tim Lytle led the way with five of the points including a 3-pointer from the left wing and a nifty 17-foot bank shot.
"I was kind of nervous in the first half," Lytle said. "My legs were tight. Once I got into it, I got in the groove."
Lytle finished with a team-high 17 points while Harker Heights native Tilmon Gaddy added 13 and nine boards.
Tokorra Cato was the only Tiger in double figures with 11 points.
The Cru was much better in the second half offensively, scoring 36 points and shooting a respectable 44 percent from the field after a 33-percent performance in the first 20 minutes.
The offense seemed to flow as the ball was moving and players were getting open looks.
"I think the biggest adjustment offensively was not only getting comfortable but working from the inside out," DeWeese said. "That made a difference. We went in and all of the sudden, the guys on the perimeter were wide open."
With the Cru's victory, all four semifinal spots in the tournament belong to the West Division. Every single East Division squad was defeated on Friday.
The semifinals begin at 2 p.m. today with Howard Payne and Concordia-Texas. UMHB will take on Hardin-Simmons for the third time this season in the late game at 4 p.m.
The Cru and the Cowboys split the season series.
"I think the two teams are pretty even," DeWeese said. "I think we're a little deeper, but they have the edge inside with their two shot`blockers. I think it'll come down to who shoots the ball better."
Howard Payne 94, Mississippi College 90 – The No. 4 seed Yellow Jackets delivered an upset special in the first game of the day as they shocked the two-time defending tournament champions Mississippi College Choctaws in an overtime thriller.
With the victory, the Yellow Jackets (14-12) became just the second No. 4 seed to advance to the semifinals. They'll play Concordia Texas today at 2 p.m.
For Mississippi College (19-6), the loss marks the first time the Choctaws will not play in the championship game in the 10-year history of the tournament.
Tom Hermann, as he's done throughout the season, put the Yellow Jackets on his back down the stretch and scored seven of his 25 points in the extra period.
Freshman Deandray McDaniel had a career-high 25 points off the bench for Howard Payne. McDaniel came into the game averaging just 4.3 points and had hit only 12 3-pointers on the season. The freshman hit five from beyond the arc on Friday.
Tyler Winford led the Choctaws with 21 points.
The Yellow Jackets have now won three in a row, and are playing their best basketball of the year after a sluggish 4-5 start in conference play.
Concordia Texas 89, University of Texas at Dallas 78 – Brad Walker had 28 points and 15 rebounds for the Tornados as the West No. 2 seed knocked off the East No. 3 seed.
Walker also had three rim-rocking dunks to go along with his double-double.
UTD hung in with the Tornados for awhile, but their abysmal outside shooting finally caught up with them. The Comets shot just 43.5 percent from the field and 3-for-23 from beyond the arc.
Michael Moore and Joel McDonald each had 16 for Concordia while Justin Reefer chipped in 10 off the bench.
Jimmy Witten had a double-double for UTD with 16 points and 10 boards. Ernie Lowery led the Comets with 21 points.
Hardin-Simmons 65, Texas-Tyler 55 – The Cowboys prevailed in an ugly quarterfinal matchup.
The teams combined for 45 fouls, 37 turnovers and 60 free-throw attempts in a sluggish quarterfinal game.
The Cowboys' stout defense held the Patriots to 32 percent shooting and forced 18 turnovers.
Hardin-Simmons wasn't much better offensively as they shot just 43.5 percent from the field.
The victory earned Hardin-Simmons a spot in the semifinals for the second consecutive year where they'll play UMHB at 4 p.m. today.
For Tyler, its storybook season in which itqualified for the ASC Tournament in its first year of eligiblity came to an end.
Dan Jean led the Cowboys with an efficient 13 points in 18 minutes. His brother, Mardochee, added 10 and Charlie Pannell chipped in with 11.
Patrick Branche led all scorers with 14 points and was the only Patriot in double figures. Branche also had nine rebounds.
Contact Evan Mohl at email@example.com or (254) 501-7564.