ENMU’s Reggie Wallace attempts a layup in the first half. (Freedom Newspapers: Kevin Wilson)
By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers
PORTALES — Senior forward Jamaal Hunnicutt scored 18 points and blocked a potential game-tying desperation 3-pointer by Central Oklahoma’s Sam Belt as time expired Thursday night, preserving Eastern New Mexico University’s 66-63 men’s Lone Star Conference crossover victory at Greyhound Arena.
ENMU (5-7) scored the game’s first 15 points and never relinquished the lead, but the Greyhounds had to fight off a second-half comeback by the Bronchos (8-4), who were held 25 points under their conference-leading scoring average and 10 points under their previous season low.
Junior guard Reggie Wallace converted two free throws with 13 seconds left to extend a one-point lead, and the Bronchos were unable to get a good look in the remaining time.
“Reggie had had a tough night to that point,” ENMU men’s coach Shawn Scanlan said. “But he got his head right at the end, and his two free throws were big.”
Hunnicutt added seven rebounds, four assists and three blocks to his night’s work. Senior Irshaun Pinckney added 12 points for ENMU, and senior forward Edmound Elzy came off the bench for 10.
The Hounds played without starting forward Daniel Sherman, who injured his back while lifting weights last Friday and is likely also out for Saturday’s home game against Northeastern State.
ENMU tried to control tempo and was generally successful, although coach Shawn Scanlan said the Hounds had too many turnovers (28) and allowed the Bronchos too many offensive rebounds (20).
“I thought our defense was very effective except we gave up too many offensive rebounds,” Scanlan said. “And 28 turnovers is too many. But I thought we handled their pressure well, and it was a good win against a very good team.”
Elzy said the key was to be able to control tempo, and noted that most of the turnovers did not lead to runouts for the quick and athletic Bronchos.
“We were able to slow the game down,” he said. “We made them play halfcourt basketball.
“I think we kind of started playing tentative (in the second half, but we knew they were going to make a run.”
Senior guard Deshone Henderson led all scorers with 19 points for UCO, but fouled out with just over a minute left.
The Bronchos struggled all game long, shooting just 32 percent (21-of-66).
Elzy said the rest of the team has to pick up more slack with Sherman out, but he believes the Hounds have begun to find their groove.
“I think we’re starting to get it together,” Elzy said. “Things didn’t click for a long time, but we’re executing better. Hopefully, we can keep it going.”
The Hounds got a 3-point basket and a 3-point play from Pinckney in the first minute of the game, and went on to lead 15-0 when Jason Breland converted a breakaway layup.
UCO missed its first nine shots and had already committed five turnovers before senior guard B.J. Raney got the Bronchos on the board with a 3-pointer just over five minutes in. The Hounds led 21-5 with under 12 minutes left, but the Bronchos closed to 33-27 at halftime.
ENMU appeared to regain control early in the second half, going on a 12-2 run to open a 45-33 lead with 13 minutes left. Elzy hit two free throws to make it 53-39 midway through the half.
The Hounds managed only two more field goals the rest of the way, the last a breakaway dunk by on an inbounds baseball pass by Elzy with 2:18 left to make it 61-57.