Hounds coach remains concerned about defense

By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers

Shawn Scanlan figures his Eastern New Mexico University men’s basketball team has its work cut out this weekend.

The Greyhounds (4-7), coming off consecutive solid outings, face a contrast of styles when they host Central Oklahoma tonight and Northeastern State on Saturday in Lone Star Conference crossover games at Greyhound Arena.

“All back-to-backs are tough,” Scanlan said. “But this one is especially tough because you have to change your mentality from one to the other.”

ENMU’s women, who haven’t played since Dec. 11, also face UCO and Northeastern in the first half of the twin bills.

While acknowledging that the Hounds have played better in their last two contests — a blowout win over St. Mary’s on Dec. 19 and a fairly close loss at Division I New Mexico State last week — Scanlan remains concerned about his teams defense. ENMU is giving up around 74 points per game, with foes shooting just under 50 percent overall from the floor and nearly 41 percent from 3-point range.

UCO (8-3) brings an up-tempo style into tonight’s matchup. The Bronchos have broken the century mark three times.
“They’re as good a team as we’ve faced,” Scanlan said. “They’re real similar to New Mexico State, except that they’ll press the whole game.

“They get a lot of offense out of their press. (Handling that) is going to be a real key for us.”

Northeastern, on the other hand, plays a completely different style. The Redmen, NCAA Division II national champions in 2003, are also 4-7 and have struggled early but are improving, Scanlan said.

“(NSU coach Larry Gipson’s) new guys haven’t totally adjusted to his system,” Scanlan said. “Northeastern’s almost exclusively a halfcourt team, whereas Central doesn’t really care how many points you score.”

Meantime, the Zias (5-4) enter the weekend with some injury concerns, acting head coach Dustin Klafka said.

Senior guard Laci Lee is “questionable” due to a foot problem, while senior guard Mika Robertson is expected to play despite spraining an ankle shortly after the team returned to practice last week.

Klafka said UCO (6-4) is “probably the most improved team in the league. They had a rough time last year, but they’ve gotten a couple of Division I transfers.”

Northeastern (6-5) has lost three in a row on the heels of a five-game winning streak. The Lady Reds are coached by Randy Gipson, Larry’s brother.

“Northeastern will always be extremely well-coached,” Klafka said. “They play solid defense. They’ll pack it in and try to take away our inside game and our penetration.”

The Zias faced NSU twice last season at Tahlequah, Okla.. They took the Lady Reds to the wire in a crossover game in January before losing 53-49, but suffered a blowout loss in a first-round LSC tournament game in March with Lee and senior post Jereena Bosket not available for ENMU due to injury.

ENMU (4-7) vs. Central Oklahoma (8-3), 7:30 p.m. Thursday, and Northeastern State (4-7), 4 p.m. Saturday, in Lone Star Conference crossover games at Greyhound Arena.

What: ENMU (5-4) vs. Central Oklahoma (6-4), 5:30 p.m. Thursday, and Northeastern State (6-5), 2 p.m. Saturday, in Lone Star Conference crossover games at Greyhound Arena.