Comets basketball bounce back with a series of wins

Shreya Ravi | Mercury Staff

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The men’s and women’s basketball teams respectively stand in second and third place within their ASC conference group

The UTD men’s basketball team defeated the Ozarks twice as well as McMurry and Hardin-Simmons, before a loss on Feb. 8, bringing them to second place in the American Southwestern Conference. A victory on Feb. 10 against Concordia Texas has maintained UTD’s standing. The women’s team’s seven-game winning streak came to an end after losing against HSU on Feb. 3, followed by two wins in subsequent games.

The men’s team played in several back-and-forth close games, including games against Howard Payne, McMurry, and HSU. Senior guard Donovan Souter led the Comets in scoring in each of the five games, including a career-high 33 points against McMurry. Junior guard Luke Kiser had back-to-back double doubles against McMurry and HSU. Junior Rob Wade contributed double-digit points in four of the five games. UTD’s offense has been clicking lately, and combined with their improved defense and ability to reach the free throw line, the team has a solid track record for winning.

“We were making tough shots and our ball movement was pretty good,” freshman forward Jordan Balderaz said. “We were constantly crashing the glass and getting second opportunities.”

The women’s team won comfortably against HPU 77-63. They then played a blowout victory against the Ozarks 78-51. The Comets had another easy win against McMurry 70-57, but finally fell to second-ranked HSU after falling behind early and eventually losing 77-66. Senior forward Alex Bowman had double-digit points in all five games, including a career-high 23 against HSU. Sophomore forward Addy Self had a double-double against HSU and a career-high five assists against McMurry. The Comets have been playing well on all fronts, but their defense has set the pace for their games.

“We came out with a lot of defensive intensity,” junior guard Cierra Trigg said. “All our games defense tends to lead the way.”

For the men’s team, their 99 points against HPU was their second highest point total this season. Their offense has caught fire as of late, exceeding 75 points in each of the last five games.

The Comets have played multiple close games in their recent home stretch, with four of their past six games ending in single digit differences, including two one-point games. Balderaz said there is a lot of pressure created in these close, late-game situations.

“Go out there and execute and just have faith in our teammates and coaching staff,” Balderaz said. “Trust that the hours and practice that we’re putting in isn’t for nothing.”

Free throws have been a large part of the Comets’ recent success; they have taken at least 25 in four of their five games, including a season-best 26-33 against the Ozarks.

“If you win the free throw battle, you have a chance to win the game,” men’s basketball head coach Jared Fleming said. “We work on [free throws] every day and it’s something that wins basketball games.”

The Comets’ defense has played a big role in their win streak, restricting their opponents to below 70 points in both Ozarks games and the HSU game.

“We held him in the sixties… which is a testament to our defense,” Fleming said. “I thought the guys were focused and locked in and that we overall did a really nice job.”

The women’s team’s hot streak has depended strongly on defense, with the Comets holding their opponents to under 58 points in four of their last five victories.

“It starts with us going hard in practice,” Trigg said. “We think our defense will lead to us scoring and … if the other team can’t score then it’s all gonna work out.”

Against HPU, sophomore guard Raven Busby scored a career-high 18 points and had two boards, two assists, a block and two steals.

“We communicated really well defensively,” Busby said. “We could put a nail in their season and get ourselves at the top of the bracket where we need to be.”

The women’s team is doing well distributing the ball; multiple players have reached double-digit points in each of the five games.

With three games left after Thursday before the ASC championship tournament, the men’s team looks to continue their hot streak, as they have won five of their last six games. The women’s team will look to do the same and maintain their stellar home record.

“The whole goal is staying focused, you can’t worry about the last game, you gotta play the next game,” Fleming said. “I think we’re really coming into our own right now.”


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