By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
The Eastern New Mexico University women’s basketball team is off to a nice start, but the Zias are facing a key game today.
ENMU (7-2), which won at New Mexico Highlands 75-56 on Monday, takes on rival West Texas A&M in a 5 p.m. Lone Star Conference South Division clash at Greyhound Arena.
The Lady Buffs (9-1), ranked ninth in NCAA Division II, erased a six-point, second-half deficit to win the South opener between the teams 79-67 on Nov. 26 in Canyon, Texas.
“Every now and then you get a chance to play a top 10 team,” first-year ENMU women’s coach Linden Weese said. “Hopefully, we can take advantage of that.”
Weese said the Zias had “one of our better performances” in the loss at WT.
While the women were winning on Monday, ENMU’s men brought their record to 5-5 for the season with a 90-63 victory over Highlands.
The Zias trailed 19-16 after a 3-pointer by Clovis High alum Chelo McElrath, but put together an 8-0 run to take the lead for good against the Cowgirls (1-9). They added 11-0 and 12-0 surges in the second half and eventually opened a 24-point lead.
“We didn’t shoot it that well (41 percent, including 7-of-24 on 3-pointers),” Weese said. “We had good looks, but the shots didn’t drop.”
Senior guard Heather Brown scored 21 points for the Zias, including five 3-pointers, while senior forward Elizabeth Richards added 11 points and 15 rebounds.
Weese said the Zias were caught looking ahead a bit to today’s clash.
“I’ll take the blame for that,” he said. “I think I’d been talking too much about the WT game, but the kids bailed me out on that.”
The Greyhounds, who are now off until Dec. 29 when they host Lubbock Christian, used a half-ending 14-3 run to open a 34-28 lead and get a handle on their game.
Senior forward Michael Monette scored 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Senior point guard Tristan Largent went 4-of-4 from 3-point range and finished with 20 points.
ENMU also got a lift from just-eligible junior forward Rece Hampton, who scored six points and grabbed eight boards off the bench. Hampton, who last played in 2002 at Eastfield (Texas) College for current Hounds assistant Mark Murdock, had two fast-break layups in the half-ending run in his first action of the season.
“I thought he did good,” ENMU coach Shawn Scanlan said. “He was nervous and excited — he hadn’t been in a game for over four years. I thought he really made a nice contribution.”
Scanlan said the Hounds began to get a handle on the game when they picked up their defense against the Cowboys (1-9).
“We didn’t always locate them on offense (early),” he said. “The other thing that affected our ability to get some space (in the score) was 15 turnovers in the first half.”
West Texas A&M (9-1, 1-0 Lone Star Conference South) at ENMU (7-2, 1-1), 5 p.m. today at Greyhound Arena.
On the Net: www.enmusports.com.
Notes: The Lady Buffs, ranked ninth in NCAA Division II, overcame a six-point, second-half deficit to beat the Zias 79-67 in the team’s earlier meeting in Canyon. … Both teams are coming off wins over New Mexico Highlands — WT winning 85-35 at home on Saturday and the Zias prevailing 75-56 on Monday in Las Vegas, N.M. … The Lady Buffs’ leading scorer is sophomore guard Emily Brister (20.7 ppg), the South’s preseason player of the year. Four others average between 7.9 and 8.8. … WT’s first-year coach, Krista Gerlich, played on Texas Tech’s 1993 NCAA national championship team when first-year ENMU coach Linden Weese was an assistant there and later served as an assistant with him for the Lady Raiders.
— Compiled by Dave Wagner