Irshaun Pinckney takes a long jumper in the first half of Saturday’s Lone Star Conference South Division game. (Freedom Newspapers: Kevin Wilson)
By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers
PORTALES — Reserve forward Chris White scored a career-high 24 points Saturday night to lead Texas A&M-Kingsville to an 82-73 victory over Eastern New Mexico University in a Lone Star Conference South Division game at Greyhound Arena.
White, a 6-foot-6, 250-pound junior who joined the Javelinas at the Christmas break and was averaging only 5.9 points coming in, went 10 of 12 from the field, mostly close range, and converted 4 of 5 free throws as Kingsville fended off the Greyhounds in the second half. The Javs (17-10, 8-4 South) will travel to either Tarleton State or Central Oklahoma on Tuesday in a first-round LSC tournament game.
Senior Richard Gonzales added 19 points and eight assists for Kingsville, while junior Eduardo Lopez scored 17 points and senior Robert Hamilton finished with 19 points and a game-high nine rebounds. Kingsville shot 57 percent and had 26 assists compared with only 13 turnovers.
Senior forward Jamaal Hunnicutt scored 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the final game of his four-year ENMU career. He finished with 1,311 points, putting him 11th on the school’s all-time scoring list.
Junior point guard Reggie Wallace added 18 points for the two-time defending South champion Hounds (9-18, 2-10) while senior guard Irshaun Pinckney, also ending a four-year career, scored 15 and junior guard Jolen Montoya 10.
“I told Irshaun Pinckney and Jamaal Hunnicutt after the game how much I respect them, and what (ENMU) coach (Shawn) Scanlan has done with this program,” said Kingsville coach Pete Peterson, whose team was coming off an 81-70 loss at West Texas A&M on Thursday.
“We didn’t want to go into the playoffs losing two in a row,” Peterson said. “I don’t care who we play (in the tournament) — I just thought a win would help us from a mental standpoint.”
The Hounds led 6-2 early, but Kingsville stormed in front with a 14-2 run and led comfortably most of the half.
“He had a decent game against them last time (11 points),” Peterson said. “He’s dropped 24 pounds since Christmas, and he’s getting better every day.”
The Javelinas opened an 11-point lead late in the half, but a three-point play by Edmound Elzy and two free throws by Jolen Montoya, fouled by White on Kingsville’s offensive end as time expired, pulled the Hounds to 38-32 at the break.
“I told our guys at halftime that we haven’t played that well and we’re only down six,” Scanlan said. “We got it tied a couple of times, but then we couldn’t make the next play.”
Scanlan said he was disappointed with the general energy level of his team.
“I didn’t think everybody played with a whole lot of fire, and I don’t know why,” he said. “It’s really hard to go out like this, but it’s a continuation of the same problems we’ve had all year long.”
ENMU stayed close most of the second half, tying the score at 45 on two free throws by Montoya with 13:39 left. Reserve Juan Lanauze scored from close range about a minute later to put the Javs back in front for good.
The Hounds were still within two points as late as the 4 1/2-minute mark after Wallace converted a steal into a layup, but they scored only two more field goals the rest of the game.