umhbshieldlogoBELTON – The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor men’s basketball team built several double-digit leads, but could not put away a pesky Southwestern University team until the final buzzer as the Cru held on for a 71-68 victory over the Pirates Monday night in Belton. UMHB evens its record at 2-2 on the year with the victory. The loss drops the Pirates to 1-2 on the season.

The Cru led 44-38 at halftime and scored the first six points of the second half to stretch the lead to 12. The teams see-sawed back and forth before UMHB grabbed its largest lead of the game at 66-53 with six minutes left to play. Southwestern used hot three-point shooting to key a 12-2 run to cut the lead to 68-65 with 3:30 remaining. Russell Green‘s lay-in pushed it back to five points before Zach Whitlock hit a free throw and then a basket to cut the gap to 70-68. The Pirates had a chance to tie, but Layton Zinsmeister snared the rebound and hit a free-throw at the other end to give UMHB a three-point cushion. Southwestern had two good looks from three on the final possession, but could not hit the tying shot.

The two teams traded runs in the first half with four ties and three lead changes. UMHB’s huge edge from the free-throw line outweighed Southwestern’s hot shooting from beyond the arc as the Cru built that 44-38 halftime lead.

Green led UMHB with a career-high 18 points and he also grabbed seven rebounds and added three assists, three blocked shots and two steals. Jerard Graham had 14 points and four assists and Justin Gammill chipped in 10 points for the Cru. UMHB shot 43 per cent from the field in the game, but hit just 2-12 from three-point range. The Cru was 23-31 from the stripe and out rebounded the Pirates 42-37.

Whitlock had 16 points and eight rebounds to lead Southwestern. Travis Kurtz added 15 points on 4-6 shooting from the three-point line before fouling out. Chris Molina had 11 points off the bench. The Pirates were 11-26 from beyond the arc and shot 39 per cent from the field as a team in the loss. Southwestern was just 9-18 from the free-throw line.

The UMHB men will now hit the road to open American Southwest Conference play with a pair of games later this week. The Cru will face Howard Payne University in a 7:30 PM start in Brownwood on Thursday. UMHB will then close out the week with a 3:00 PM tip off at Sul Ross State in Alpine on Saturday.