BELTON — Eleven days between games can feel like an eternity. Though, according to Mary Hardin-Baylor senior guard Logan Hicks it shouldn’t if responsibilities are handled a certain way.
“We’re basketball players. We are supposed to stay in the gym. So, it really wasn’t a break,” Hicks said. “We were talking in a group chat saying we have to stay in the gym and do our individual things so that when we come back we can put it all together.”
Back in action Friday night for the first time since Dec. 16, Hicks and the Crusaders put together a 65.7 percent shooting performance in the second half and pulled away from Whitman, 107-95, on Day 1 of the annual Cru Classic at Mayborn Campus Center.
Hicks led five Crusaders in double figures with 30 points in UMHB’s seventh straight win, which came 11 days after the Crusaders (8-1) opened American Southwest Conference play with a victory over Concordia.
“It’s always good to beat those guys,” UMHB head coach Ken DeWeese said of Whitman (5-3). “They were number one in the nation last year for like 14 weeks and they’ve got seven or eight guys back. So, yeah, that was a good win for us.”
Casey Armour had a double-double with 11 rebounds and scored 15 of his 22 points for UMHB in the first half, in which the Crusaders twice led by 10 points but couldn’t separate themselves and settled for a 44-40 advantage at the break. Sam Moore also tallied 22 points to go with 12 assists, and Pat Everett and Kendal Little posted 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Andrew Vickers paced the Blues with a game-high 31 points on 9-of-16 shooting. Darne Duckett added 16 and Nikola Trifunovic had 11 for Whitman, which shot 48.4 percent overall.
Boosted by its efficient second half (23-of-35), UMHB shot 55.1 percent for the game.
“It’s hard to lose when you have five players score in double figures, and Sam getting 12 assists, that’s big time. That’s big time,” said Hicks, who arrived at his 30 points by making seven of 11 shots from the floor, including six of eight from 3-point range, and 10 of 12 at the free throw line.
“Everything was in rhythm. (Hicks) wasn’t rushing anything. He let it happen and that worked out for him,” DeWeese said.
The Crusaders’ initial 10-point cushion in the opening half was earned through the work of a 15-1 run that quickly overshadowed an early 4-0 deficit and included 11 straight points for a 15-5 lead 4½ minutes in.
Whitman pulled within 18-16 at the 12:20 mark before UMHB went back up by 10 with an 8-0 burst that featured a pair of Hicks 3-pointers for a 26-16 lead.
Weston Crump buried a corner 3 with 4:50 remaining before halftime to lift the Blues to their first lead since they were up 5-4. Hicks, though, countered with his third 3-pointer of the half to boost UMHB back in front, 36-35, and the Crusaders pocketed the four-point lead into the locker room.
“Whitman is really good. We didn’t expect them to lay down or anything. I thought our guys really responded well when (Whitman) started bearing down a little bit,” DeWeese said.
Hicks’ 3 and Moore’s three-point play pushed UMHB ahead 75-63 midway through the second half. Whitman whittled their deficit to six three times, including 86-80, but the Crusaders didn’t flinch and led by as much as 15 on a pair of occasions over the final 4 minutes before settling for the 12-point margin.
UMHB continues tournament play at 5 p.m. today versus unbeaten University of Wisconsin-Platteville (10-0), which defeated LeTourneau in Friday’s first game.