ABILENE — The Howard Payne Yellow Jackets came up short at McMurry, 83-80, Thursday night, and their hopes of reaching the American Southwest Conference championship are in grave danger following the defeat.
With the loss, Howard Payne (8-14, 4-10) trails both McMurry (8-14, 6-9) and Hardin-Simmons (8-14, 6-9) — who are tied for fourth place in the West Division standings — by 1½ games with three left. McMurry owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over HPU after completing a season sweep Thursday, while the Yellow Jackets visit Hardin-Simmons — which also owns a win over HPU — at 4 p.m. Saturday.
In Thursday's loss, the Yellow Jackets sank 41 percent (28 of 68) of their field goals, including 11 three-pointers, while McMurry downed 44 percent (26 of 58) of its shots, including nine treys.
The biggest difference came at the free throw line, where McMurry converted 22 of 26 free throws compared to 13 of 21 for Howard Payne.
HPU owned 45-36 edge in rebounds, but turned the ball over 19 times which led to 26 McMurry points. The Yellow Jackets forced 17 turnovers which produced 17 points.
For Howard Payne, Khyce Randall led the charge with 29 points trailed by Rickey Guillory with 10, Cody Hastings and Darren Farmer with nine each, Thomas Bingham with eight, Talen Davis with six, Shadd Cole with five, and Javaris Jones and Cole Bene' with two points each.
Luke Stephenson led McMurry with 25 points followed by LaRandall Scroggins with 18 and Mike Williams Jr. with 15.