Crusader basketball goes 1-1 in last two home games

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Photo courtesy of UD Athletics

In the final two home games of the season last weekend, the University of Dallas men’s basketball team garnered mixed results against two conference opponents. The squad earned a narrow 76-71 victory against Texas Lutheran University at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, but lost to Southwestern University on Senior Night at 4:00 p.m. With two games left before the SCAC tournament, UD is 5th out of 10 in the SCAC standings and the team’s record stands at 8-8 in conference and 12-11 overall.

Tournament seeding was on the line Friday night against the 4th-place Texas Lutheran Bulldogs, and both teams kept the game competitive with that in mind. The Crusaders started off strong, establishing a 8-0 lead aided by two shots from junior John Russell. Bulldogs Cameron Fontenot and Jamir Mason combined for eight points of their own to narrow UD’s lead, making it 14-10 with 13:02 left in the first half. Dallas focused on getting inside the paint and playing physical defense, leading to a 27-20 scoreline with 8:08 remaining. Then, five different Crusaders scored in a 13-2 run to grant Dallas a 40-22 advantage. UD went into the break shooting an astounding 64%, which resulted in a comfortable 43-28 lead.

Both teams exploded in the opening minutes of the second half. TLU player Caleb Lister scored 5 consecutive points for the Bulldogs, while Russell scored three straight layups for Dallas. Maintaining a slim lead with 15:55 to go, junior Dustin Mathis nailed a three-pointer to make the score 52-40. Lutheran fought back with several threes and a 13-2 run to tie the game at 61-61 with 7:14 left on the clock. With their lead gone, Dallas tightened up, resulting in a back-and-forth game that was tied at 68-68 with just a few minutes remaining. The Crusaders opted to repeatedly put the ball in the hands of the best free-throw shooter on the team, sophomore Jai Love. Love scored five straight to make the game 73-68 with 0:33 left. Bulldog Jorden Kite hit a three to make it a two-point game, but UD held on thanks to two game-clinching free throws from sophomore Cameran Hyde. Lister and Russell led their respective teams with 18 points each. Dallas coach Doug Stamples expressed his thoughts on the hard-fought 76-71 victory:

“I was really proud of how hard we played on Friday. TLU is a physical team and I thought our guys battled the entire game. We got a big lift from John [Russell] and Letrell [Toussaint] on the inside. We fed off their [physical] play since we had several of our guards out with injuries.” 

Senior Night at UD began by honoring seniors Isaiah Hayes and Scott Bolen. Juniors Michael Wambsganss and John Russell were also honored as non-returning members of the team. The Southwestern University Pirates entered the game having won only one of their last ten games. The match started off with a Hayes layup and a three from Mathis to make it 5-0. SWU then responded with an 8-0 run of their own to take the lead with 15:52 remaining. UD would then strengthen their defense and take an 18-10 lead with 13 minutes left in the first. The game slowed to a crawl over the next several minutes as each team found themselves in foul trouble early. Accurate shots from the foul line allowed SWU to get back in the game, culminating in a 29-29 tie with 2:49 left. The Pirates went on an 8-0 run to gain momentum going into the half, but Mathis hit the last shot of the period. Southwestern led 37-33 at halftime.

The game’s final period began with the teams trading blows, but SWU player Luke Hicks provided separation when he hit two consecutive threes to give his team a 48-40 lead with 16:46 left. Hicks finished the day shooting a perfect 4-4 from the three-point line. Strong play from Hyde and Mathis, along with Love repeatedly making it to the free throw line, resulted in a 62-62 game with eight minutes to go. When the score was 66-65, the game turned in the favor of Southwestern. SWU player Trenton Garrett scored 7 points, leading his team on a 15-4 run to take a commanding 81-69 lead with 1:59 left on the clock. From that point forward, it was merely a matter of making free throws for Southwestern: they made nine of their last ten. Disappointedly for the Crusaders, they fell at home on Senior Night 90-79. Hyde and Toussaint had a combined 24 second half points for Dallas while Love led in scoring with 19. Three different players from SWU led the Pirates with 15 points. After the defeat, Bolen described his thoughts on his last home game as a graduating senior.

“It’s a tough one to lose, but I’m happy there was a crowd there to see the seniors leave and send us off into the tournament. You can take things away from a loss like [this] — things that we’re going to learn and get better on going into the tournament. And I’m always excited for the tournament: because that’s when it matters.”

UD will try to end the season on a victorious note for their last two games after falling to 8-8 in conference. They will travel to face two of the top teams in the conference, playing the University of St. Thomas (TX) on Friday at 5:30 p.m. and Centenary College on Saturday at 4:00 p.m.  

Dallas hits the road for the final weekend of the regular season. UD will first take on the University of St. Thomas (TX) on Friday at 5:30 p.m. The Crusaders will then face Centenary College on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. Coach Stamples detailed the Crusaders’ outlook for the coming week:

“The last two games are going to be tough. We play two good teams on the road. There are no easy games in the SCAC. We have to have a great week of practice. I know our guys are looking forward to finishing the regular season strong in preparation for the SCAC tournament.”

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