ABILENE — The Howard Payne Yellow Jackets’ quest for their first American Southwest Conference basketball victory since the Dec. 1 opener will continue into next weekend’s home stand, as the McMurry War Hawks dished out HPU’s eighth straight league defeat, 77-58, Saturday afternoon.
With the loss, Howard Payne (3-15, 1-8) is two full games behind fifth-place Sul Ross (8-10, 3-6) and 2.5 games behind fourth-place McMurry (7-12, 4-6) as the top four teams from the West Division will meet the top four from the East in the ASC championship tournament in late February.
Down by double digits with 8:57 left in the first half, the Yellow Jackets rallied to take a 26-25 halftime advantage. Trailing 21-11, HPU reeled off 10 straight points to even the score at 21 at the 4:44 mark. Timothy Aguero scored five points during the run, Talen Davis added four and Shadd Cole contributed a free throw.
McMurry regained a 25-21 edge with 2:34 left in the half, but Howard Payne tallied the final five points with Davis sinking two free throws while Cole added three from the charity stripe.
The War Hawks answered HPU’s late first-half spurt with 18 of the first 22 points in the second half to grab a comfortable 43-30 advantage with 11:09 remaining.
McMurry’s lead exceeded 20 points, 53-32, on a pair of free throws at the 8:48 mark. Howard Payne trailed by as many as 24 points, 65-41, with 3:56 left on the clock.
The Yellow Jackets shot just 34 percent (21 of 62) from the floor, including 33 percent (7 of 21) at the three-point line, and converted a mere 50 percent (9 of 18) of their free throws. Howard Payne was also outrebounded 47-37.
Javaris Jones finished with 18 points for Howard Payne followed by 13 from Aguero, 10 from Cole, eight from Davis, four from Joshua Taylor, three from Thomas Bingham and two points from Colton Otts.
McMurry sank 43 percent (23 of 54) of its field goals, including 54 percent (14 of 26) in the second half where the War Hawks outscored the Yellow Jackets, 52-32. McMurry was also 23 of 31 (74 percent) from the free throw line.
Colin Taylor tallied 14 points for McMurry followed by Dedrick Berry Jr. with 12, Mike Williams Jr. and Jordan Jackson with 11 apiece, Zacc Carter and Trevin Ramirez with nine each, Brandon Bullock and Kirshawn Terry both with four, and Elijah Johnson with three points.
The Yellow Jackets host Mary Hardin-Baylor (14-4, 5-4) — an 83-77 Saturday winner over ASC West leader Concordia (8-10, 6-3) — at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.