So much of UMKC’s inspired efforts to open the season revolved around point guard Martez Harrison’s scoring ability.
In the Kangaroos’ 90-77 home opening victory over Missouri S&T on Wednesday, his playmaking was on display.
Harrison finished with 11 assists, the most by a UMKC player since 1999 and two short of the school record.
“It’s my job to get my teammates involved,” Harrison said. “And they did a good job finishing.”
Harrison’s tenth and 11th assists were of highlight reel quality.
He delivered a long bounce pass to a streaking Frank Williams Jr., who slammed it home for a 79-65 with 6:40 remaining.
A dunk ended the next sequence moments later. This time, Harrison dribbled through resistance, including a through the leg bounce and found Shayok Shayok open under the basket for the finish.
UMKC had some breathing room. The Kangaroos were never really threatened, but couldn’t put away the Division II opponent until the final minutes.
A 16-point advantage early in the second half had melted to six, when Harrison and Williams went to work. Harrison went to the basket for one score, then headed in the same direction on the next possession. This time, he drew the defense and hit an open Williams in the corner for a three to get the margin to 11.
The Miners (1-2) had played the day before, falling at Central Missouri by 23 on Tuesday. The effort against UMKC was better. Missouri S&T stayed within striking distance, largely on the strength of 10-of-21 three-point shooting, until the final minutes.
Harrison’s 13 points gave him a double-double. He was one of four Kangaroos in double figures in an up-tempo game defined by pressing action on both sides.
This marked the first time this season UMKC was considered the favorite by stature. The Kangaroos had defeated Missouri and took Kansas State into the final minute before falling by 10. In those games, Harrison averaged 23.5 points and four assists.
“We told our guys that we were their Missouri or K-State game,” UMKC coach Kareem Richardson said. “We had to play hard.”