The Howard Payne Yellow Jackets on Saturday afternoon put forth one of their better performances since the start of the American Southwest Conference schedule, still their league skid continued with an 87-79 loss to the West Division-leading Concordia Tornados at the Brownwood Coliseum.
Howard Payne (3-17, 1-10) suffered its 10th consecutive ASC defeat since it knocked off ASC East co-leader UT-Dallas, 69-65, in the league opener on Dec. 1 in Brownwood.
To make matters worse, the teams the Yellow Jackets are chasing in the race for the final West Division berth in the ASC tournament picked up victories Saturday. Fifth-place Sul Ross (9-11, 4-7) — which hosts the Yellow Jackets in their next game at 3 p.m. next Saturday — edged Mary Hardin-Baylor, 91-89. Meanwhile, fourth place McMurry (8-12, 5-6) extended its lead over Howard Payne to four games with only five remaining following a 75-70 triumph over Hardin-Simmons.
The top four teams from the West will meet the top four teams from the East at the ASC championship tournament Feb. 21-23, hosted by the East No. 1 seed.
Concordia (10-10, 8-3) was able to stretch its lead in the West to two games over both Hardin-Simmons (11-9, 6-5) and Mary Hardin-Baylor (15-5, 6-5) following their Saturday defeats.
The Yellow Jackets again fell victim to a blistering offense as Concordia converted 63 percent (30 of 48) of its field goal attempts for the game, including 56 percent (14 of 25) of its three-point attempts. While the Tornados sank just 53 percent (13 of 23) of their free throws, they forced 24 HPU turnovers which translated into 21 points.
Spencer Bone poured in a game-high 36 points for Concordia as he converted 10 of 14 three-pointers. Joe Neal added 29 points for the Tornados trailed by 11 from Zaid Harris, seven from Ronnie Hamilton and two points apiece from Detarrius Kirk and Greg Harbor.
Howard Payne drilled 45 percent (30 of 66) of its shots, including 43 percent (12 of 28) of its three-pointers, but got to the free throw line just 10 times, making seven. The Yellow Jackets owned a 33-27 advantage in rebounds, which led to a 16-3 edge in second-chance points.
Shadd Cole sparked the HPU offense with 33 points, thanks in part to five three-pointers, while Joshua Taylor contributed 18 points after converting all four of his three-point tries. Talen Davis, Thomas Bingham and Cole Bene’ added six points apiece for HPU trailed by three-point efforts from both Luke Cox and Mason Green and two points each from Javaris Jones and Evan Adkins.
Down eight points, 12-4, just 4:11 into the contest, Howard Payne spent most of the afternoon in catch-up mode. Despite spotting Concordia a sizable advantage early on, the Yellow Jackets were able to drew even at 17 with 11:08 left before the break. Trailing 17-12, a layup followed by a three-pointer from Taylor allowed HPU to tie the score.
The Yellow Jackets remained within striking distance, down just 27-26 with 6:19 remaining in the half. But Concordia fired back with 10 of the next 12 points to establish some breathing room, 37-28, at the 3:30 mark.
Concordia opened its first double-digit lead, 43-31, on a trey by Bone with 45 seconds left in the half, but Cole answered with a traditional three-point play right before intermission to close the deficit back to single digits, 43-34.
In the second half, Howard Payne shrunk the deficit to five points, 50-45, with 15:18 to go, but Concordia countered with a knockout punch. The Tornados reeled off 16 of the next 19 points as the Yellow Jackets suddenly found themselves in a 66-48 hole just 2:49 later.
Concordia’s lead peaked at 20 points on multiple occasions, the last coming with 10:59 left as Hamilton’s trey made the score 72-52.
Howard Payne still trailed by 18 points, 79-61, with 7:28 left, but made a late charge that began with a three-pointer by Cole. The Yellow Jackets put the finishing touches on a 13-3 run when Taylor splashed a three-pointer with 3:14 left, bringing Howard Payne within eight points, 82-74.
Concordia, however, allowed Howard Payne to get no closer than eight points the rest of the way to collect its seventh victory in the last eight outings.