RICHARDSON ó The Howard Payne Yellow Jackets earned one of the biggest victories of head coach Troy Drummondís tenure Monday night, knocking off the defending American Southwest Conference champion UT-Dallas Comets, 63-57, on the road.
Seeking their first ASC tournament appearance since 2008, the Yellow Jackets are off to a 3-1 start in conference play and sit at 3-5 overall. Howard Payne, which won just five ASC games during the 2013-14 campaign, moved into a tie with Mary Hardin-Baylor (5-3, 3-1) and Louisiana College (3-3, 3-1) for third place in the conference standings following the victory.
Leading by 16 points, 61-45, with 5:08 left, the Yellow Jackets fell victim to a 12-0 run by UT-Dallas (7-3, 3-3) as the Comets closed the gap to 61-57 with 55 seconds remaining. Brandon Gould drained one of two free throws with 27 seconds left to halt the surge, then J Bailey pulled down a defensive rebound on a missed jumper by UT-Dallasí Nolan Harvey with 12 seconds remaining to ice the victory.
The Yellow Jackets buried 44 percent (22 of 50) of their field goals, including 53 percent (9 of 17) of their three-pointers. HPU also converted 67 percent (10 of 15) of its free throw attempts.
Ty Davis, who converted 5 of 8 treys, finished with 17 points to pace the Yellow Jackets followed by 16 from Gould, nine from Bailey, six each from Rickey Guillory and Jorden Young, five from Curtis Gile and two points apiece from Sterling Smoak and Khyce Randall.
UT-Dallas owned a 35-33 edge in rebounds and both teams committed 13 turnovers, but the Comets shot just 39 percent (22 of 57) from the floor and 35 percent (7 of 20) from three-point land.
Kyle Coulter poured in 18 points for the Comets, while Harvey was the only other UT-Dallas player in double figures with 10 points.
Howard Payne led by a dozen points, 38-26, at halftime and was in front by nine, 47-38, with 11:26 remaining before a pivotal 9-2 spurt resulted in a deficit too great for UT-Dallas to overcome.
The Jacket surge began with a three-pointer by Davis followed by another trey from Gould, which extended HPUís lead to 53-38 at the 9:43 mark. Following a Comet deuce, Davis knocked down another trey with 8:54 left as the Yellow Jacketsí lead stood at 56-40.
Following a quick five-point outburst by UT-Dallas, another trey from Davis and a bucket from Gould gave HPU its 61-45 lead.
Trailing 19-18 with 9:13 left in the first half, the Yellow Jackets embarked on a 7-0 run that eventually resulted in a 12-point halftime lead for Howard Payne.
HPUís run began with a three-pointer by Davis at the 9:22 mark that pushed HPU back in front, 21-19. Gould followed with free throws at 5:30 and Davis nailed a bucket at 4:47 to stretch the lead to 25-19.
Another trey by Davis pushed HPUís lead to 28-21 at the 3:28 mark, while free throws from Gould made the score 32-23 with 2:06 left before halftime. The advantage climbed into double digits, 34-23, with 50 seconds left on a layup by Randall. Bailey tacked on a pair of free throws with seven seconds left to boost the lead to a dozen.
The Yellow Jackets will venture to NCAA Division I Sam Houston at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 29.