Belton, TX— The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor men's basketball team used clutch rebounding and free-throw shooting to hold off McMurry University as the Cru posted a 90-87 victory Saturday afternoon in Belton. The 8th-ranked UMHB men improve to 22-1 overall and 18-1 in American Southwest Conference play with the win. The victory also avenges UMHB's only loss of the season, a 75-71 defeat at the hands of the War Hawks last month in Abilene. McMurry falls to 15-8 overall and 11-8 in the ASC on the season with the loss.
McMurry led 40-35 at halftime after a first half that featured three ties and four lead changes. The War Hawks pushed the lead to seven early in the second half before UMHB battled back to take a 56-54 lead with 12:12 remaining. The Cru would stretch the lead to five before the War Hawks climbed back. McMurry took a 76-75 lead on Bryce Hill's lay-up with 3:29 to play. Steven Jones added two free throws to make it 78-75 War Hawks and McMurry would lead 80-77 after the two teams traded buckets with 2:29 on the clock. Kitrick Bell hit a lay-up and Marlon Miller added a jumper to put UMHB up 81-80 with 1:24 to go. Miller would add a free throw and Bell buried four straight after pulling down two key rebounds to give the Cru an 86-80 lead with 22 seconds remaining. Jaden Isler's jumper cut the lead to four, but Brian Todd and Sterling Phillips each hit two free throws, wrapped around a Hill three-pointer and Bryant Taylor's basket at the buzzer was too little, too late for the War Hawks.
Bell posted a career high with 23 points for the Cru, going 7-9 from the field and 9-9 from the stripe. Phillips also poured in 23 points and Miller chipped in 18. Greg Wiernas had a team-best seven rebounds and Bell had six boards. UMHB shot 60 percent from the field in the game and went 26-34 from the free-throw line. The Cru turned the ball over 24 times and lost the rebounding battle 31-28.
Hill and Jones led McMurry with 15 points apiece. Dominick Walker added 13 points and seven rebounds, Isler had 12 points and Taylor scored 11 for the War Hawks. McMurry shot 47 percent from the field, but went just 4-17 from three-point range. The War Hawks hit 21-26 from the free throw line in the loss.
The Cru will host Schreiner University for a 7:30 PM tip-off next Thursday in the regular season home finale. UMHB will then close out the regular season with a 3:00 PM start at Texas Lutheran University in Seguin next Saturday. The Cru has already clinched the ASC West Division title and the right to host the ASC Championship Tournament February 24-26. The UMHB men need to win one of the final two regular season games to post the best regular season record in school history, besting the mark of 22-3 set by the 2007-08 team.