Daniel Mills led UMHB with 24 points in the Cru’s loss to Howard Payne on Thursday. (David Morris / Centexphoto)

umhb_logoMARSHALL – The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor men’s basketball team went cold down the stretch and Howard Payne made the Cru pay for it in a 72-64 defeat of UMHB in the First Round of the American Southwest Conference Championship Tournament Thursday in Marshall. The Cru saw a seven-point halftime lead slip away as UMHB was knocked out of the ASC Tournament in the opening round for the second straight year.

The Cru led the entire first half, going up by as many as nine points before settling for a 38-31 lead at the break. UMHB would push the lead to ten points at 43-33 early in the second half before the Yellow Jackets stormed back. HPU used an 11-0 run to take its first lead of the game at 44-43 with 14:45 left to play. Howard Payne would take it out to a 54-47 lead before the Cru made a run of its own. UMHB tied the game on five points from Daniel Mills and a Layton Zinsmeister lay-up. The two teams then traded 5-0 runs to tie it up at 59-59. After two leads changes and another tie. Avery Polchinski gave UMHB its last lead at 63-62 on a basket with 4:23 remaining. But the Cru would not score again from the field, as its only points in the final stretch came on a Russell Green free throw as Howard Payne clinched the game from the free throw line. UMHB connected on just two of its final 14 shots from the field in the loss.

Mills had a huge game for the Cru with 24 points on 7-13 shooting. He scored 17 of those points in the first half. Green added 11 points while Jerard Graham had seven points and a team-high nine rebounds. UMHB shot just 30 percent from the field in the second half and hit 41 percent for the game. The Cru went 3-14 from three-point range and hit 17-24 from the free throw line. UMHB turned the ball over 15 times and HPU converted those turnovers into 23 points in the game.

Brandon Gould led the Yellow Jackets with 22 points, 20 of them coming in the second half. Rickey Guillory and Khyce Randall had 14 points apiece and Ty Davis scored 10 points. Guillory also led HPU with nine rebounds. The Yellow Jackets shot 52 percent from the field in the second half and finished at 43 percent for the game. Howard Payne was 3-10 from beyond the arc and made 17-21 from the stripe. Both teams pulled down 36 rebounds in the game.

The loss ends UMHB’s season at 17-9 overall. The game also closes out the careers of Cru seniors Graham and Kevin Waller. Howard Payne improves to 15-11 with the victory and advances to the ASC Semifinals to face the East Texas Baptist/University of the Ozarks winner at 7:30 PM on Friday.