Crusaders basketball

UMHB’s Luke Feely (25) gets past Howard Payne’s Tyrell Thompson for a layup Saturday during the Crusaders’ victory over the Yellow Jackets.

BELTON — Mary Hardin-Baylor used a 9½-minute span to show what it’s capable of doing when it’s firing on all cylinders, and Howard Payne got run smooth over in the process.

UMHB constructed a 26-0 run early in the first half to turn a 9-5 deficit into a 31-9 lead, and the 19th-ranked Crusaders never looked back on their way to burying the Yellow Jackets 94-59 on Saturday afternoon at Mayborn Campus Center.

“We can get going pretty easily,” UMHB freshman guard Braedyn Dawes said. “We’re a good shooting team. It’s fun when we start hitting shots because it just carries on for us. I felt good during warm-ups and it carried over into the game. It was fun.”

The game-deciding stretch started with Gibson Hearne’s 3-pointer, followed by five straight points from Nathan Stoltz. Luke Feely scored on a cut to the basket, Dawes buried back-to-back 3s, and Carson Hammond drained another from beyond the arc. Feely and Hammond then got loose for transition buckets, and Hammond capped the surge with a 3 at the 7:35 mark for the 31-9 lead.

“I didn’t even realize it was a 26-0 run. That’s pretty good. At that point, we had some young guys in,” UMHB coach Clif Carroll said.

With the competitive portion of the contest finished, the only thing in doubt was the size of the final margin.

The first-half margin grew to 25 points on D.J. Kane’s 3-pointer, and Feely made it a 30-point affair with a putback with 8:45 left in the second. The lead eventually ballooned to 38 points with 6:04 remaining when Frederick Shields scored for the league-leading Crusaders (12-2, 7-1 American Southwest Conference), who won for the sixth straight time.

“We’ve had some big leads at halftime this year, and then we gave up 63 points in the second half against Arlington Baptist and gave up 61 after halftime against Concordia,” Carroll said. “We challenged our guys at halftime not to do that again, and we held them to 34 in the second half. We did what we had to do to win today.”

Jaylan Ballou had 16 points, and Myles Brown added 13 for Howard Payne (3-11, 2-7), which was just 4-of-24 from 3-point range.

Josiah Johnson scored 15 points, Dawes finished with 13, Feely 12, Hammond 11, and Stoltz 10 for UMHB, which made 13 3s and shot 49 percent (34-of-70) overall.

After finishing a weeklong three-game homestand with Saturday’s rout, the Crusaders will try to take their hot shooting on the road for four games over the next two weeks before hosting second-place Hardin-Simmons on Jan. 27.

“This week, we’ve had some guys step up and make some shots that hadn’t made shots in a while,” Carroll said. “If you’re going to win the league, you have to win your home games. Our guys showed some guts and did that.”