UTPB badly needed some momentum.
Mired in a midseason slump, facing the two toughest teams in the Heartland Conference and coming off of a disappointing home loss, the UTPB men’s basketball team had to find a way to turn things around quickly.
Beating the top team in the conference should help. UTPB held off a late charge by St. Mary’s to pick up a 69-65 win over the Rattlers Thursday night.
By beating the Heartland Conference-leading Rattlers (12-8, 5-2), the Falcons effectively put the clamps on a slump that had yielded three losses in four tries, capped by last Saturday’s 81-78 loss to St. Edward’s, a team that was previously winless in conference play.
“It was a tough loss, and I really hammered on them this week,” UTPB head coach Dwaine Osborne said. “It was a tough week, but they responded well.”
Backup post player Dwayne Soders provided the points in the first half.
Coming off the bench in relief of starter Klein Harper, the offensive-minded 6-foot-6 junior knocked down all seven shots in the opening frame, scored 14 points and staked UTPB (10-10, 4-3) to a 40-27 halftime lead.
Soders finished with 18 points.
“I didn’t realize he was seven-for-seven until I saw the stat sheet,” Osborne said. “I think we were able to run some things that got him open.”
St. Mary’s refused to go easily. Slowly but surely, the Rattlers chipped away at the Falcons’ first-half lead, finally cutting the gap to 62-60 with more than a minute and a half left in the game.
Erik Martin made sure St. Mary’s failed to complete the comeback.
Taking a pass in the left corner with 1:11 left in the game, Martin buried a 3-pointer that gave UTPB a 65-60 lead the Falcons would not relinquish.
For most of the conference season, Martin had been in a slump. But Thursday night’s performance, a tour-de-force performance highlighted by 15 points, five rebounds, six blocks, five assists and three charges drawn in the second half alone, Martin, the team’s second-leading scorer, ended the slump.
“If we could win this, we knew we were still in it,” Martin said. “I felt good. Putting up shots in the gym paid off.”