This past Friday night, the University of Dallas men’s basketball team defeated St. Mary’s University (MN) 75-71 before having to quickly turn around and play Howard Payne University the following afternoon, which resulted in a heartbreaking 72-67 loss. Although the Crusaders went 1-1 on the weekend, many around campus would agree that the team took away more that was positive than negative, especially from Friday night’s game.
In the highly anticipated season home opener, the men’s basketball team met and even exceeded most expectations.
“We were ready to go from the tip. Our coaches had a solid game plan, and we knew exactly what we had to do. The younger guys brought a ton of energy right from the start and even during warm-ups; we knew this was a game we had to win,” said team captain Drew Assinesi.
In front of an absolutely raucous, bleacher-defying crowd, the Crusaders shot an extremely impressive 53.4 percent from the field and 38.1 percent from three-point land compared to 40.7 percent field goal shooting and a lowly 13.3 percent three-point shooting put up by St. Mary’s. Additionally, the Crusaders out-rebounded St. Mary’s by six and were able to hold them to only nine offensive rebounds for the game. On the other hand, St. Mary’s was able to take advantage of a foul discrepancy, hitting 25 of 31 free throws while UD uncharacteristically struggled at the charity stripe, shooting 5 of 12, good for roughly 42 percent.
Junior transfer Tanner Bruffey was the game’s top performer with 23 points and four assists, while teammate Braeton Hightower went 7-12 for 18 points and had two assists, and Assinesi finished with nine assists and seven rebounds. Other big contributions came from freshman Aaron Wyatt and transfer Joe Stephens ,who each recorded nine points, while freshmen Kym Malone and Curtis Gile were good for seven points apiece.
On the other hand, Saturday’s game against Howard Payne University saw the Crusaders get off to a very slow start but follow with an almost heroic second half comeback. According to Assistant Coach Matt Grahn, the game was “a tale of two halves.” The Crusaders shot a respectable 33.3 percent from the field but only hit 3-12 from behind the arc, while Howard Payne was able to connect on 40.6 percent FG shooting and 2-6 three-point shooting.
When the second half came around, the Crusaders decided it was time to play. Led on by big plays from Hightower, Assinesi and Wyatt, the shots began to fall, and the HPU lead was diminishing. After a big three-point shot from freshman guard Joe Stoll, the Crusaders were convinced that victory was in sight. With roughly two minutes left, the HPU lead had dwindled to a single point; however, after a series of unfavorable calls and costly turnovers, HPU sealed a five-point victory over the Crusaders.
The next game is tonight against Arlington Baptist College in Arlington, Texas, at 7 p.m. After that the team will head out to California to play Occidental College and the California Institute of Technology in Los Angeles. Come out and support your Crusaders!