A shower of three-point shots from UTD couldn’t save the men’s basketball team from the Hardin-Simmons Cowboys in a 78-68 non-conference loss on Feb. 9.
Starting the game off, the Comets struggled to get footing offensively, with a number of turnovers plaguing UTD. Making matters worse was HSU’s defense, whose athleticism made the night difficult for the Comets.
“They were pretty long,” said sophomore guard Caleb Banks. “It was hard to execute our plays, because I know coming out we wanted to hit some slips to the (center) and they were reading it. They were so long they could steal the pass and just jump into the ball.”
Head coach Terry Butterfield pointed to the preparation of the team as a reason for its struggles early on.
“I think there were two things there: Number one, I don’t think we were very ready to go,” he said. “Number two, I don’t think some of our guys had really listened and bought in to the game plan. When guys don’t listen and buy into to the game plan after we plan it, the results speak for themselves.”
Despite finishing the first half with 11 turnovers, the Comets headed into the locker room trailing only by one thanks to a late surge from behind the three point arc, with the team going 8 of 16 from the three.
Heading into the second half, the two squads went toe-to-toe offensively, with UTD finally picking up its first lead of the game with just over 10 minutes left to play in the contest.
The Comets were able to stay afloat thanks to a wave of threes, with 21 of their 31 points in the second-half coming from downtown. Unfortunately for UTD, as the game started to come to a close, the Comets were having a difficult time finding their mark.
Butterfield said he thought the problem was the team was too eager to shoot threes, with over half of its shots coming from behind the three-point line.
“All of our guys think that they’re three-point marksmen,” he said. “When we have the ball going in, it’s great. When we don’t, its not good. When 37 of your 54 shots are three, I think that’s a problem. I don’t think that’s a great balance at all.”
HSU capitalized on the Comets’ offensive struggles and started to slip away from UTD as the last few minutes winded down. Although a couple of late threes in the last minutes kept the game interesting, the Comets were still forced to foul and could only watch as HSU’s free throws put the game away.
For the Comets, Banks led the team with 17 points, including 7 from the charity stripe. Other standouts were junior guard Dapo Ogunfeitmi, who finished with 15 points and sophomores Ben Smith and Jon Hatcher, who each had nine.
With just four games left in the regular season, every game counts for the Comets as they fight for positioning in the ASC tournament. Butterfield said the team will have to shrug off the loss and move forward to face Louisiana College and ETBU later this week.
“The thing is the teams coming in this week…are every bit of athletic as the team that’s leaving here tonight,” he said. “If we’re going to give them the ball and we’re not going to take care of it and we’re going to shoot way more threes than we need to and we’re not going to shoot any free throws, then I think we’re going to be in trouble.”
Banks said although the team wasn’t too distraught by the loss since it was non-conference, it was still taking it in to make adjustments in the future.
“We’re probably going to see them in the tournament,” he said. “This will just be a learning experience and hopefully we can learn from it and come back better next game.”