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UMHB looking for second chance in NCAA tourney

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Posted: Friday, March 2, 2012 4:47 am

BELTON — At some point after their American Southwest Conference tournament semifinal loss Saturday, members of the Mary Hardin-Baylor men’s basketball team wondered what happened next.What comes next is a second chance — a last chance — in the NCAA Division III National Championships tournament.

“I felt like we were in a win or lose situation during the tournament, and we’re just lucky that we got in, actually,” Cru senior guard Marlon Miller said. “I’m glad we got another shot to be back at it and now we know the importance of it and you’ve got to come with it or go home.”

Tenth-ranked Mary Hardin-Baylor (25-2) hosts Trinity University tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the second game of an NCAA national tournament double-header at the Mayborn Campus Center in Belton.

It’s the Cru’s fifth trip to the national tournament in the last six years and their third-straight season to host a first-round game. It will be the first time Mary Hardin-Baylor has hosted a four-team bracket in the tournament.

“We’re very, very hungry,” said UMHB senior forward Damian Davis. “We want to show how talented we can be and show that loss doesn’t determine our season and just try to win.”

McMurry (20-8) plays Northwest Conference champion Whitworth University      (24-3) in the first game of today’s double-header at 5:30 p.m. The semifinal winners play Saturday at 7 p.m. for a berth in the NCAA Division III Sweet 16.

While UMHB players are chomping at the bit to get a fourth, and final shot, at the War Hawks, who become a Division II school next year, Mary Hardin-Baylor coach Ken DeWeese is taking a more one-game-at-a-time approach.

“The possibility of playing on Saturday is what we’re playing for (tonight),” DeWeese said. “It wouldn’t matter to us if it’s a combination of the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks, or if it’s the West NBA All-Star team. We just want to get to Saturday.”

McMurry handed the Cru both of their losses this season, including the 77-69 in the ASC conference tournament semifinal. The War Hawks’ 75-71 win over UMHB on Jan. 21 spoiled the Cru’s 16-0 start to the season. UMHB cannot afford a third strike.

“Right now, we have a different de-meanor to how we practice right now, so I think by us having that mindset, we’re going to be better off,” UMHB senior forward Greg Wiernas said. “We just want to win right now. And, I think we may have been laid back because we had been on those winning streaks, but now it’s do-or-die, so we need to keep on winning.”

And Trinity (20-8) poses an interesting first-round match-up for the Cru.

The Tigers won the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conferece and enter the tournament on an 11-game winning streak. Their slow-tempo style is the complete opposite of UMHB’s run-and-gun game and DeWeese said that could cause the Cru problems.

“There are three or four things they do very well and there are three or four things we do very well and they’re in opposite directions,” DeWeese said.

The Cru won two of their last three games without their top-two leading scorers — Miller and sophomore forward Kitrick Bell. Both are expected back tonight.

“I challenge any basketball team collegiately in America, regardless of level, to take their top two leading scorers out and see how well they do and see if they win two of the next three. I doubt that many would be able to do that,” DeWeese said. “I think we’ve had some guys that have stepped up and taken up some leadership roles and scoring roles and defensive roles.

“So, I think if they understand that situation, they certainly understand that its one-and-done here.”

 

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