The Howard Payne Yellow Jackets halted an 11-game American Southwest Conference skid Thursday, earning their first league victory since the Dec. 1 opener with a 76-62 triumph over the McMurry War Hawks Thursday night at the Brownwood Coliseum.
Howard Payne (3-18, 1-11) — which upset ASC East leader UT-Dallas, 69-65, to start ASC action but struggled since — drained 51 percent (32 of 63) of its field goals Thursday night, and 42 percent (8 of 19) of its three-pointers.
Luke Cox paced a balanced Yellow Jacket offensive attack with 15 points trailed by 14 from Shadd Cole, eight from Cole Bene’, seven apiece from Javaris Jones and Joshua Taylor, six from Timothy Aguero, five from Mason Green, four points apiece from Eliajah Pruitt, Colton Otts and Thomas Bingham and two points from Talen Davis.
McMurry (9-13, 6-7), conversely, sank just 37 percent (25 of 67) of its shots, but 9 of 31 three-pointers. The War Hawks were outrebounded 40-34 and committed 21 turnovers while creating 18.
Mike Williams Jr. scored a team-high 13 points for McMurry while Isaac Moreno was the only other War Hawk in double figures with 11 points.
Down 9-8 with 12:17 left in the first half, the Yellow Jackets embarked on an 11-point run that put HPU in the driver’s seat the rest of the night.
A layup by Pruitt pushed the Yellow Jackets in front, 10-9, then two three-pointers by Cox and a third from Taylor quickly staked Howard Payne to a double-digit advantage, 19-9, at the 10:55 mark.
McMurry crept as close as four points, 26-22, with 3:45 left in the first half, but buckets from Green and Otts stretched the advantage back to eight, 30-22, with 2:15 to go. At halftime, Howard Payne owned a 35-28 edge.
The Yellow Jackets’ lead shrank to three points, 37-34, at 15:22 of the second half, but Howard Payne fired back with a 14-5 spurt to open its largest lead to that point, 51-39, at the 11:17 juncture. Bene’ contributed six points during the run, Jones added three and Davis, Pruitt and Otts tacked on two points apiece.
The lead continued to swell for the Yellow Jackets with the advantage twice peaking at 20 points, the last time with 2:15 to go on a bucket by Cole that made the score 75-55.
The Yellow Jackets, who are out of the postseason picture despite the victory, look to continue to thrive in the role of spoiler when they host Hardin-Simmons (13-10, 8-6) — an 83-80 winner over Sul Ross Thursday — at 3 p.m. Saturday.