With youth comes potential, and a young Howard Payne Yellow Jackets squad showed Saturday they should be able to make some noise in the American Southwest Conference race.

The two Yellow Jackets with the most experience on the roster — Tom Hermann and Lee Scott — combined for 53 points as Howard Payne coasted past the University of the Ozarks Eagles, 86-78, at the Brownwood Coliseum.

Hermann hit 13-of-17 shots and finished with 30 points, while Scott chipped in five three-pointers and 23 points as the Yellow Jackets (2-2, 1-1) earned their first conference victory.

The Yellow Jackets shot 59 percent (33-of-56) overall and 50 percent (6-of-12) from three-point territory. Howard Payne limited Ozarks (2-3, 0-2) to a 40 percent (26-of-65) effort from the floor and just 31 percent (8-of-26) from three-point land.

Habeeb Kareem scored a team-high 19 points for Ozarks, while Tony Daniels contributed 14 off the bench.

“This is a real encouraging performance and a gratifying win,” said HPU head coach Charles Pattillo. “There’s not a doubt in my mind we can play at this level all the time if we execute on offense and play great defense. Ozarks is a good basketball team and I don’t mind telling you I was really worried about them before we played them.”

That worry was eased midway through the opening half thanks to a string of 21 unanswered points that gave Howard Payne a 23-5 cushion as Ozarks went scoreless for 8:10.

Trailing 5-2, Scott used a traditional three-point play to pull the Yellow Jackets even just 1:21 into the game.

Freshman Chris Cornwell, who scored nine points in the first 10 minutes before leaving with an injured back, tallied seven of the next 12 points to push the lead to 17-5. Scott added his first three-pointer and Hermann chipped in a deuce as well.

Leading 17-5, Hermann and Scott contributed layups and Bryan Blalock nailed a jumper to cap the run with 11:39 left in the half.

“The key to the game was we got off to a really good start playing great team ball,” Pattillo said.

Howard Payne’s lead never slipped below 11 points during the rest of the first half. The closest Ozarks came was 29-18 with 7:06 left following a Kareem layup.

The Yellow Jackets were able to push the advantage back to 18 points, 37-19, with 4:39 left in the half following a three-pointer by freshman Nate Phillips. At intermission, Howard Payne led 47-32.

Howard Payne’s lead reached 19 points, 57-38, with 14:53 left on a Hermann jumper, then the Yellow Jackets went ahead by 21 points, 76-55, on a Scott trey at the 6:42 juncture.

Ozarks slowly shaved away the deficit, but never got within single digits until Tyler Mitchell’s three-pointer with 15 seconds left resulted in the final margin.

The Yellow Jackets will be back in action at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday as they visit Southwestern Assemblies of God. HPU already owns a win over Southwestern Assemblies of God, a 73-60 victory in the home opener on Nov. 20.

Yellow Jackets 86,

Univ. of Ozarks 78

Univ. of Ozarks 32 46 — 78

Howard Payne 47 39 — 86

Leading scorers

Ozarks (2-3, 0-2): Habeeb Kareem 19, Tony Daniels 14, Tyler Mitchell 9, Tony Brock 8, Andre Williams 8, Chris Clark 5, Ted Beard 4, Clint McHenry 4, Josh Dudley 4, Ty Allen 3.

HPU (2-2, 1-1): Tom Hermann 30, Lee Scott 23, Chris Cornwell 9, Dayton Burch 6, Bryan Blalock 4, John Bryant 4, Travis Dawson 3, Nate Phillips 3, Brock Wood 2, Ryan Stone 2.