ENMU’s Chad Donnell scores on a layup during Thursday’s Lone Star Conference crossover game against Texas A&M-Commerce. (Freedom Newspapers: Kevin Wilson)
By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
PORTALES — Senior guard Jermart Miller scored the final seven points of the game, including a go-ahead four-point play with 18 seconds left, to rally Texas A&M-Commerce to a 71-69 victory over Eastern New Mexico University Thursday night in a Lone Star Conference men’s crossover game at Greyhound Arena.
Miller, held in relative check for much of the game, scored 11 of Commerce’s final 13 points over the last 3 1/2 minutes, rallying the Lions from a six-point deficit.
Miller finished with 26 points for Commerce (8-1), which extended its winning streak to seven. Chris Fantroy added 13 and Lamar Searight 11.
“He’s a good player,” ENMU coach Shawn Scanlan said of Miller. “We did a good job on him for (most) of the night. We made him take tough shots.
“We tried to keep a fresh body on him most of the night, but sometimes you just have to take your hat off to him.”
Miller did a lot of damage last year at Greyhound Arena, scoring most of his 29 points to help the Lions pull out a 97-90 win.
The Hounds (3-4), losing their third in a row, got 15 points from junior guard Stephen Wilson, 14 from junior forward Ira Cross and 11 from junior guard Travis Carr.
Down by six at halftime, the Hounds went in front 49-48 with 10:13 left on a 3-pointer by Carr and never relinquished the lead until Miller’s late heroics.
Jolen Montoya gave the Hounds a 69-64 lead on a steal and driving layup with 1:18 left. After Miller scored for Commerce, ENMU’s Tristan Largent was called for a charge in the lane with 31.6 seconds left and the shot clock running out.
Miller then made the game-tying shot from wide left over Largent, who was called for a foul on the play. Miller made the free throw, then added an insurance free throw after Montoya’s bank shot from the left side was off.
Largent missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer from the left corner as time ran out.
Commerce coach Sam Walker said the Lions were fortunate to get the win.
“I really thought coach Scanlan’s team played harder and more efficiently than us,” he said. “They got every loose ball and every hustle play. They just didn’t get the ball to fall for them.”
Walker said his team didn’t overlook the Hounds, noting that the trip to ENMU and to West Texas A&M is a tough one for his team.
“We watched last year’s game on film and knew how difficult it would be,” he said.