BROWNWOOD, Texas — The Southwestern University Pirates men's basketball team connected on nine more 3-pointers than Howard Payne University and needed every one of them, watching a last second heave clank harmlessly off the backboard to survive with a 79-78 victory.
Southwestern got a season-high 26 points from Brandon Alexander, who shook off some early-season shooting struggles to shoot 10-for-19 from the floor, including 6-for-10 from deep in 25 minutes.
Alexander poured in 16 points in the first half, hitting four 3-pointers on six attempts, and Justin McCormack provided a spark off the bench, hitting three 3-pointers in the first half as the Pirates shot 9-for-20 from deep to take a 40-35 lead at the break.
The Pirates' offense flowed with movement, assisting on 10 of the their 14 made field goals in the half with reserve guard Joel Martinez leading the team with three. Howard Payne reserve Kyle Kildare kept the Yellow Jackets within striking distance, scoring eight points off the bench on 3-for-4 shooting in a half where his team shot 13-for-34 (38.2 percent), including 2-for-18 from deep.
Zac Black opened the second half with six points and a block in the first three minutes, scoring 10 in the half, to help the Pirates to a 51-35 lead with 16:41 remaining, their largest of the game.
The Pirates appeared to have control of the game, answering every Yellow Jacket run with a key basket of their own, holding Howard Payne at arm's length with Luke Hicks nailing a 3-pointer and Black making a layup to give Southwestern a 70-55 lead with a little over five minutes left in the game.
Howard Payne went on a tear, getting a combined 21 second-half points on nine shots from Tyrell Thompson and Jase Miguez.
Thompson re-entered the game at the 4:54 mark and immediately threw in a dunk off an offensive rebound to cut the deficit to 12. On the other end, Miguez blocked a shot then called his own number for a jump shot.
After a Pirates' missed layup, Thompson followed with one of his own, bringing Howard Payne to within 10. Miguez followed with another layup to bring the score to 72-64. Alexander hit a 3-pointer to put the Pirates ahead by double digits again at 75-64 with 59 seconds remaining.
Miguez hit a 3-pointer, Javaris Jones followed with another, and Thompson added a 3-point play of his own, grabbing an offensive rebound and scoring while drawing Alexander's fifth foul; connecting on the free throw to bring Howard Payne to within two with 11 seconds remaining.
McCormack missed one of two free throws and Luke Cox hit two of three after being fouled on a 3-point attempt with six seconds remaining to bring the score to 79-78. The ensuing full-court inbound pass was intercepted by Joshua Taylor but Jones' heave missed, giving the Pirates the victory.
Black finished with 12 points and six rebounds on 5-for-10 shooting. McCormack added 10 off the bench. Andrew Puhl filled up the box score in other ways, scoring six points with 12 rebounds, four assists, and a steal.
With the win, the Pirates improve to 2-2 this season. They'll host Hardin-Simmons University on Sunday, Dec. 1 at 4:00 p.m.