ATLANTA (April 7, 2013) -- There are several different ways to say it: the second-half magic ran out for the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor men’s basketball team, or the clock struck midnight on the Cru’s Cinderella story. But in the end, UMHB just could not come up with enough offense to rally from an early deficit in an 87-70 loss to Amherst in the 2013 NCAA Division III National Championship Game Sunday in Atlanta.
The Cru fell behind 10-0 before Kitrick Bell’s tip-in put UMHB on the board at the 16:58 mark. That bucket sparked an 8-3 run as the Cru pulled back to within 13-8 with 14:53 left in the first half. But then Amherst set the tone for the rest of the game, answering that run with one of its own to stretch the lead to 25-12 three minutes later. UMHB cut it five at 33-28 on Thomas Orr’s monster dunk with 3:40 left in the half, but once again the Lord Jeffs responded to push the lead back to double figures before the Cru closed to 38-30 at the break. Amherst made the most of its size advantage, converting 11 offensive rebounds into 10 second-chance points in the half. Meanwhile UMHB shot just 36 percent from the field and hit just 2-9 from three-point range in the opening period.
“I don’t think their size was anything we hadn’t seen in conference play, or the tournament,” senior wing Thomas Orr said. “But they did a good job of getting rebounds and scoring off of them.”
Lay-ups from Brian Todd and Orr pulled the Cru to within 38-34 early in the second half, but Amherst used five straight points from Willy Workman to take the lead back to nine. Todd answered with a five-point run of his own to get UMHB back to 43-39 with 16:33 left to play. Once again, Amherst would have an answer, taking the lead into double figures with 11:45 remaining. The Lord Jeffs pushed it to 14 point before the Cru seemed to be poised to make its push in the stretch run. Orr and Todd scored back-to-back buckets to cut it to 10, but Todd missed a chance to convert a three-point play and Amherst answered with a three-point play of its own. The Lord Jeffs went on to ice the game from the free-throw line and led by as many as 19 before coasting to the victory.
“I thought we played pretty well defensively, holding them to 41 percent shooting,” said Cru Head Coach Ken DeWeese. “But for some reason we just couldn’t score the way we usually do. I thought we had some good looks but the shots just didn’t go down. I give Amherst a lot of credit, they are very deserving national champions.”
Orr led UMHB with 24 points and he added 11 rebounds. Todd scored 17 and James Allen chipped in 15 while earning a spot on the Division III National Tournament All-Tournament Team. Kitrick Bell pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds. UMHB shot just 36 percent from the field and went 5-16 from three-point range.
Allen Williamson led the Lord Jeffs with 18 points and Connor Green and Aaron Toomey scored 16 points apiece. Workman added 14 points and 10 rebounds. Amherst shot 41 percent from the field and went 10-31 from beyond the arc.
The game was played in front of 6,250 fans at Philips Arena in conjunction with the Division I Final Four and Division II National Championship Game as part of the 75th anniversary celebration of the Men’s Basketball Tournament. More than 300 UMHB students made the trip, along with a large contingent of administrators, employees, friends and families to provide an incredible atmosphere for the title game.
“I think our fans were just incredible and I can’t thank them enough,” DeWeese said. “We appreciate them making the trip and supporting us and we are disappointed that we couldn’t get them a win.”
Amherst wins its second NCAA Division III National Championship and finishes the year at 30-2. UMHB was making its first appearance in the national title game and closes out the year at 27-6. The Cru set a new school record for victories, advanced beyond the “Sweet 16” for the first time in program history and became the first team from the state of Texas to play in the Division III Men’s Basketball Championship Game. The loss also closed out the careers of Cru seniors Cory Meals, Orr and Todd.