Joshua Lucero: FNM correspondent ENMU guard Stefan Mirabal fakes a shot while being defended by West Texas A&M’s David Henderson, left, and Courtney Carr during Saturday night’s Lone Star Conference men’s game at Greyhound Arena.
PORTALES — Eastern New Mexico University didn’t wait nearly as long to make its comeback. This time, the comeback — and the second one — stuck.
Stefan Mirabal and Reggie Nelson each scored 15 points and the Greyhounds used runs of 14-1 in the first half and 12-2 in the second half, holding off a late West Texas A&M charge to secure a 68-66 Lone Star Conference men’s basketball victory on Saturday at Greyhound Arena.
“It was a big win,” ENMU coach Andrew Helton said. “I’ve just got to find a way to keep us from falling behind every time.”
Down 18-9 early in the game, the ENMU defense held West Texas A&M without a basket for 8 minutes, 45 seconds to take the lead into the half, then wiped out a 45-40 second-half deficit with Mirabal hitting several difficult shots.
A turnaround fade shot by Nelson with 3:13 remaining in the game gave the Greyhounds (11-8, 4-6 LSC) a 63-55 lead, which might have been safe against other squads. But the Buffaloes made it tight at the end.
“The thing about West Texas and coach (Rick) Cooper and his program is they play so hard and the play so tough, they’ll come back at you,” Helton said.
The Buffs (12-5, 6-4 LSC), who led by 20 late in the first half before holding on for a 71-68 victory when the teams faced off on Wednesday at Canyon, Texas, were the ones trying to make the late comeback this time. And just like the Hounds on Tuesday, the Buffs came up a hair short despite a late push from Kennon Washington.
The Greyhounds led 65-57 with two minutes to play, but came up with just one made free throw on their next five possessions. Then senior guard Tralyn Harden, who scored 11 points, hit a pair of free throws with 17.2 seconds left to play for a 68-64 lead.
Washington scored at the buzzer for the Buffs, who were led by Courtney Carr’s 14 points. Tez Dumars added 13 and Donald Sims 12 for WT.
Devone Davis struggled from the floor with a 2-for-7 night, but went 9-of-14 at the line to score 13 points for ENMU.
Helton said he was disappointed with how the Greyhounds rebounded — the Buffs outboarded them 39-28, including 18-7 on the offensive glass — but said there were many more positives than negatives.
Combined with the women’s upset over the Lady Buffs in the early game, ENMU secured its first sweep of WT since 2003.