The McMurry University men's basketball team turned out its best defensive effort of the season and downed St. Mary's University 66-57 Saturday afternoon in Heartland Conference action at the Bill Greehey Arena.
McM head basketball coach Clif Carroll hasn't been pleased with his team's defensive effort this season – and with good reason. Prior to Saturday the War Hawks were giving up an average 69.4 points a game. The 57 points allowed is a season-low and Carroll can finally breathe a sigh of relief – for now.
"This should be normal for us," Carroll said following the win. "This was the best team game we played all season, especially on defense. We need to continue to put this type of effort in every game. I've told them all year this kind of defensive output is possible. Now that we went on the road and beat one of the better teams in the conference with solid defense, it will help our confidence."
However, it seemed McM was going to let the game slip away. Marvin Whitt converted a free throw at 14:12 in the second half to give St. Mary's (11-3, 4-3 HC) a 37-29 lead.
Nonetheless, the War Hawks responded and slowly erased the Rattlers' lead.
Kourtney Goff's bucket at 7:29 put the War Hawks up 48-47. The teams traded baskets for the next six minutes before Alex Lewis (Converse, Texas/Temple College) hit a pair of three throws and a jumper to close out the game.
Goff (Rochester, N.Y./Southern Illinois University) led all scorers with 16 points – and played the entire 40 minutes.
"He (Goff) had to really step up and play a lot of minutes," added Carroll. "He was very efficient and got us into our offense. He played like a senior and I'm extremely proud of him."
Connor Robinson (Austin, Texas/Bowie HS), Alfred Perez (Spring, Texas/Klein Collins HS) and Lewis each scored 14 points.
The War Hawks won the turnover battle and forced 17 turnovers.
For the War Hawks to finish the season atop the Heartland Conference standings, it's a team effort like tonight, Carroll said, that will help them reach their goal.
"If we want to finish with the best regular season record in the conference, you have to be able to go on the road and win these types of games," Carroll said. "Tonight we did that and now we have to prepare for a great UT-Permian Basin team."
McM (8-6, 3-2 HC) will be in action Thursday evening and play host to UT-Permian Basin. Tip is set for 7:30 p.m. at Kimbrell Arena.