The University of Dallas men’s basketball season ended on Sunday with a loss to Texas Lutheran University (TLU) in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) Championship game. This loss came after UD defeated Schreiner University and Southwestern University to make it to the championship game.
“We took the approach of this was a new season and new opportunity,” Head Coach Jarred Samples said. “Everyone was 0-0. What had happened was in the past, and we are all on a level playing field. We talked about ‘winning the day’ during the week of practice leading up to the tournament. We just wanted to get better each day to win the day. It kept us focused and helped us have some really good practices.”
The tournament tipped off with UD playing Schreiner in the first quarterfinal. Coming into the tournament, UD had lost to Schreiner twice in the previous two weeks. First Dallas lost on their home floor 78-69 on Feb. 9, and then in Kerrville six days later 83-62. The Mountaineers looked to beat Dallas for the third time in 13 days while the Crusaders were just hoping to win their first game since groundhog day.
The two teams came out firing in the first half as both teams shot almost 50 percent. Dallas led at the half 41-40 shooting 14-29 in the first frame while Schreiner shot 13-26 with both teams making five three-pointers. Both teams rebounded evenly, with Schreiner leading Dallas 16-14, and both teams committed few turnovers, with the Crusaders winning 5-4.
Sophomore Joshua Nunn led the way for Dallas scoring 13 points on 3-4 shooting, 1-2 from the 3-point line, and a perfect 6-6 from the foul line. Schreiner’s leading scoring at the half was freshman Alex Dehoyos with eight points, shooting perfectly from the floor with three total shots and two of them 3-pointers.
In the second half, the defenses slowed down the scoring pace, but UD still shot 41.7 percent for the half. Shreiner led late in the half until sophomore Michael Wambsganss hit a three-pointer that gave the Crusaders the lead with exactly two minutes to go 65-64. The Crusaders never looked back and won the game 68-64. UD outshot Schreiner 45 percent to 39 percent for the game, was out-rebounded by the Mountaineers 39-38, and was even in turnovers 10-10.
Nunn scored 13 points, all of which came in the first half. Wambsganss registered a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Sophomore John Russell and junior Logan Fruhwirth had 11 and 10 points respectively.
UD then moved on to the semifinal to play Southwestern, the number one overall seed in the tournament. UD split the season series the Pirates defeating them 84-77 at the Maher Center on Jan. 12, and then losing on the road a week later 93-67.
Cannons began firing again as the first half feature another great shooting performance by both teams. UD shot an amazing 61.1 percent from the floor with Southwestern answering back with 46.7 percent and, more importantly, 46.2 percent from three-point land. The score remained close as UD clung to a 42-40 halftime lead. Dallas was positive five on rebounds but negative five on turnovers.
Russell and sophomore Dustin Mathis led the Crusader first half scoring with 10 and 14, respectively. Pirate star, junior forward Brandon Alexander, led his team in scoring with 14.
In the second half, the guns kept firing as UD still shot an incredible 52 percent field goal percentage. The Pirates’ shooting, however, dipped just under 39 percent for the half. UD increased their lead to 16, leading 76-60 with just under five minutes to go. Through a series of clutch shots and timely defensive stops, Southwestern narrow the deficit to 78-71 with 1:54 to go, but that is a close as they would get. Dallas played evenly with Southwestern the rest of the game winning by the score of 91-84.
Alexander led all scorers with 29 points, but four Crusaders scored 15 or more. Wambsganss and Mathis each scored 19 and grabbed 6 rebounds with Mathis adding a game high five assists. Russell scored 15, and freshman Jai Love tied his career high scoring 17 off the bench with most of his points coming from the free throw line making 12 of 13.
The championship game was played on Sunday against the hosts and the SCAC regular season co-champions Texas Lutheran Bulldogs. TLU dominated Dallas in both match-ups, winning 79-60 and 73-62.
TLU looked as if they would run off with the game again as they scored the first 11 points and built a 20-8 lead with 13:48 in the 1st. Dallas came charging back and tied the game at 22 on a jumper by freshman Rashid Coombs. TLU spiked their lead back up to nine, 31-22 making three straight three-pointers on their next three possessions. The Crusaders bounced back again, however, going on a 20-6 run and taking a 42-37 halftime lead.
The Crusaders red hot shooting continued for the third day in-a-row as they outshot TLU 53 percent to 42 percent. More importantly, the Crusaders played nearly error-free ball, only committing four turnovers for the half.
Wambsganss played perfectly in the first half. He committed no turnovers making all six of his field goals, which included two plus four free throws, and scored 18 points. TLU senior Shawn Hamilton led the Bulldog’s scoring with 12 points.
The Crusaders seemed to have the game in hand as they went on a 19-7 run over the first four plus minutes of the second half to take their largest lead of the game 61-44. However, over the next 12 minutes TLU clawed their way back to tie the game at 71-71. Regulation went on to end 78-78, and the game proceeded to overtime.
“I think you have to give TLU credit for their defense,” said Samples. “They really stepped up when their back was against the wall. They also made lineup and match up changes that were more defensively oriented.”
Made baskets came at a premium in overtime, as both teams made just six total field goals in the overtime periods. TLU appeared to have the game as they lead 84-80 with two minutes left in OT, but Nunn hit a big three-pointer and Mathis hit a pair of free throws to tie the game at 85-85. The Crusaders had a chance to take the game there, but Nunn missed a shot with one second left.
The game went to a second overtime, and UD struck first taking the lead 86-85 on a Love free throw. UD lost the lead 87-86, but then Mathis took it back with on a layup 88-87. This was the last time UD would hold the lead, as TLU outscored Dallas 12-7 for the rest of the period.
The final score in double overtime was 99-95 TLU.
“The loss was obviously disappointing but not a let down at all,” said Nunn. “Nobody expected us to do what we did. We faced a veteran group (TLU) that played a lot of experienced seniors at their place. Essentially we had nothing to lose. Obviously, we wanted to bring it home and be the first to ever do it but we don’t have anything to hang our head about.”
Wambsganss played the game of his life making his first 10 shots, and shooting 11-17 for the game with 5-9 from the three-point line and 8-8 from the foul line for a total of 35 points. He also pulled in 13 rebounds, both numbers are career highs. Additionally, he committed no turnovers.
“Mike played a phenomenal game but I expect that out of him,” said Nunn. “We talked before the game about how this is just an open run or an open gym for us; we just gotta go out there and play pressure free and have fun. That’s what we did and the result was almost exactly how we wanted it.”
“Mike was a warrior all weekend,” said Samples. “He played well Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. He never once complained about being tired or needing rest. We were going to ride him all the way today. It was one of the most impressive performances I have ever seen. Multiple fans from the other team came up afterward to say how impressed they were of his play. That says a lot when the other team’s fans seek me out to tell me how great he played. He showed a lot of heart. He definitely earned the All-Tournament Team slot that he was awarded. Late in the game, TLU was trying to deny him the ball and not let him catch. They also were not helping off of him. He was opening up more space for our other players to attack.”
Nunn and Love scored over 10 points with 15 and 13, respectively. Russell scored eight points and grabbed six rebounds, but also committed five fouls and fouled out. Senior Ben Norton played 22 minutes off the bench scoring two points and seizing seven rebounds, but unfortunately, fouled out.
Wambsganss and Nunn were honored on the All-Tournament Team alongside Southwestern’s Alexander, TLU’s Hamilton, and seniors Nathan Josephs and Jackson Willoughby, who was also the tournament’s MVP.
Dallas season ends with an 11-17 overall and 6-10 in conference this season. The Crusaders will return most of their players from this season with the exception of Norton and Fruhwirth.
“This season was a roller coaster with lots ups and downs,” said Samples. “I don’t know if I have ever had more fun coaching a team than I did this weekend. I could not have been more proud of the way our guys competed and represented the University of Dallas this weekend. It was a blast. I could not be more proud of the way our guys played and carried themselves. There is so much to look forward to with this group as we continue to grow. We are going to learn from this experience and be better because of it. The future is bright for UD men’s basketball.”