Greyhound guard Jolen Montoya scores on a first-half layup in Thursday’s game against Abilene Christian at Greyhound Arena. (Freedom Newspapers: Kevin Wilson)
By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent
PORTALES — Eastern New Mexico University men’s basketball coach Shawn Scanlan was in a pretty forgiving mood Thursday night, even in regards to little things like giving up 16-0 second-half runs. After all, it hasn’t been many times this season that the Greyhounds have viewed leads as big as 32 points.
Even after Abilene Christian tallied its big streak, the Wildcats were still down by 16 points and ENMU cruised to an 89-72 victory for its first Lone Star Conference South Division win.
Senior forward Jamaal Hunnicutt scored 23 points and added 12 rebounds, seven assists and six steals for the Greyhounds (8-12, 1-4 South) while sophomore walk-on Aaron Rodriguez erupted for a career-best 20 points.
“This will, I hope, give us something to build on,” Scanlan said. “We should have a good feeling coming off this.
“I wasn’t real happy the way we finished the last 10 minutes, but when you’re not used to winning and not being ahead by this margin, sometimes you don’t know how to play with a lead.”
The Hounds certainly showed they could play at the beginning of the contest. ACU (8-13, 1-5) had a lead at 8-6 early, ENMU dominated the rest of the first half with contributions from a wide variety of sources.
Rodriguez hit a pair of treys and junior guard Jolen Montoya added one to help Eastern go on a 17-4 run and build a 23-12 lead.
Then, with the score 26-18, Hunnicutt put back his own miss with seven minutes left before intermission — a bucket that was the start of a 21-5 run for ENMU that took the team into the locker room with a 47-23 advantage.
Junior guard Reggie Wallace added 18 points and eight assists for the Hounds. ACU was led by junior post Hakim Rasul’s 30 points — 28 in the second half — while senior guard David Baxter, the LSC’s second-leading scorer behind Rasul, finished with 15 points.
“We did a pretty good job, held them to 20-something points in the first half when I guess they’re averaging about 80 a game,” said Rodriguez, who often drew Baxter’s number on defense. “All our games have been close and we’ve had a chance to win them all. When we play like D like this, I’m sure we can get into that (LSC) tournament.”
ACU’s A.J. Porterfield, a Clovis High graduate, saw action in the first half but did not score. Another former Clovis player, Justin Pinckney, is redshirting for the Wildcats this year and watched from the ACU bench.
His brother, ENMU senior Irshaun Pinckney, was also in street clothes as he tries to recover from a hairline tibia fracture in his right leg.
The elder Pinckney said he hopes to be back when ENMU travels to Abilene for a rematch next Thursday.
“I told him that I wanted to see him playing when they come to Abilene,” Porterfield said. “I’d like to see how much better he is, see if I’ve got a little better than him at any time.”