The Howard Payne Yellow Jackets opened a 15-point lead, but had to fend off a pesky Ozarks Eagles squad for a 94-86 American Southwest Conference victory Saturday at the Brownwood Coliseum.
Win the win, the Yellow Jackets (7-7, 3-3) evened both their season and ASC records, while Ozarks — under the direction of former HPU assistant Travis Carruthers — slipped to 3-10 overall and 1-5 in league play.
“I was really proud of our guys playing defense in the first half for sure and keeping their poise in the second half,” said Yellow Jackets head coach Troy Drummond. “I was extremely proud of some of our young guys stepping up off the bench and playing well.”
Khyce Randall recorded a double-double of 21 points and 15 rebounds for Howard Payne, while De’Marcus Hurd also chipped in 21 points.
“Khyce does what he always does knocking down shots but he’s also hitting the boards,” Drummond said. “And I was glad to see DJ Hurd’s shot was falling.”
Darren Farmer and Drake Cooper contributed 14 points apiece followed by Shadd Cole and Talen Davis with six points each, Timothy Aguero with four, Cole Bene’ with three, Colton Otts and Joshua Taylor with two apiece and Rickey Guillory with one point.
The Yellow Jackets shot 46 percent (36 of 78) from the floor, including 53 percent (16 of 30) in the second half. HPU also owned a 48-37 edge in rebounds and a 42-5 advantage in points off the bench.
Ozarks connected on 45 percent (28 of 62) of its field goal attempts — with 16 fewer shots — as Zach Bobo scored a game-high 23 points trailed by Dylan Gray and Bryson Johnson with 18 apiece and Tim Turpin with 16 points.
The Yellow Jackets’ lead peaked at 44-29 late in the first half and HPU carried a 12-point advantage into the locker room at halftime.
Leading by 14 points, 81-67, with 5:05 left, the Yellow Jackets witnessed their cushion reduced to four points, 86-82, with 1:56 remaining.
The Yellow Jackets responded with six of the next eight points — on a layup by Randall and free throws from Hurd and Cole — to stretch the lead to 92-84 with 31 seconds left.
HPU hosts East Texas Baptist (10-2, 4-1) — coming off a 95-85 victory over McMurry — at 7:30 p.m. Monday.