Playing for the first time this month, in what was just its third home game of the season, the Schreiner men took on McMurry Tuesday night at Stephens Family Arena and the Mountaineers showed no signs of rust from their 20 day layoff. SU jumped out 14-4 in the game’s opening minutes and was never really challenged by the Warhawks as they picked up their second-straight win and third of the season, 87-68.
“One of the things we have really been working on is competing,” said Schreiner head coach Connor Kuykendall. “Win or lose we want to come back in the locker room and look ourselves in the mirror and say that we competed. The biggest thing was our guys took care of themselves over that 20-day break. They had finals and got some rest and then put in some good work the last four or five days in practice.”
The lead swelled to 24-11 when Jared Thompson knocked down a three-pointer with 11:01 left in the half. Keeping the pressure on MU, the Mountaineers pushed the lead to at least 15 on three separate occasions late in the first half. The last time came on another shot from behind the arc when Wes Miller pushed the lead to 36-21.
In danger of being run out of the gym in the opening half, McMurry mounted its largest run of the game. The Warhawks turned up the heat with a full-court press that forced a handful of SU turnovers and led to a 14-5 run to close the half and leave McMurry trailing by just six at the break, 41-35.
Not fazed by the Warhawks’ run, Schreiner opened the second half on another spurt of its own scoring the first scoring the first seven points of the half on two-point jumpers by Phillip Kee and Nathan Robins and a three-pointer from Keenan Gumbs. The barrage came in just under 90 seconds pushing the lead by to 13. McMurry wouldn’t get the lead under eight again.
“We tried to make some adjustments on Nate Estrada because he got hot at the end of the half. But, we mainly just talked about getting back to what we work on every day with our defensive principals,” said Kuykendall.
Estrada led all scorers with 32. Thompson and Miller each had 19 for SU. Gumbs chipped in with 12.
Tuesday nights’ 87 points were the second most SU has scored this season. They shot over 50 percent from the floor and had all aspects of the offensive game working. The low post-group of Blake Kelley, Dustin Bercutt, Miller and Kee outscored the McMurry post players 41-20 as the Mountaineers pounded the ball inside against the undersized Warhawks.
“We feel pretty much every game that we will have an advantage down low. They can all do some different things. We like to play inside-out, and if our big guys are scoring that means the defense has to come to us,” said Kuykendall.
The attention down low gave SU open looks from the perimeter. As a team, Schreiner shot nearly 60 percent from deep led by Thompson who went 5-for-6.
“We have a good group of guys who can shoot the ball, but that starts by setting it up by playing inside and make people adjust. Tonight we had a play that was working and I just kept calling it until they made an adjustment,” said Kuykendall.
This was the second meeting between the two in state, non-conference rivals, McMurry won the first meeting Nov. 19 in Abilene.
After having 20 days off, SU will take on the other D3 school from Abilene, Hardin-Simmons on Tuesday.
Then, the Mountaineers will have nine days off, before playing on back-to-back days again Dec. 29 and 30.