Things have changed in a matter of weeks for Eastern New Mexico University in the Lone Star Conference. They’ve gone the other way in a matter of possessions for the Abilene Christian Wildcats.
Two months after beating the Abilene Christian on the road on a Rodney Blackmon layup with :01 to play, the host Greyhounds survived four ACU go-ahead shot attempts in the last 30 seconds to swipe a 65-64 win Saturday at Greyhound Arena.
Blackmon scored 18 points and junior Jordan Romero added 10 points on 3-of-6 shooting for the Greyhounds (9-11, 6-6), who have won three straight in conference to move into sole possession of fourth place in the LSC.
“I don’t like being .500, I think we should be a couple games over,” Greyhound coach Andrew Helton said. “But being 3-6, you’ll take three straight wins. Angelo on the road was a very difficult game, and ACU is good.”
Just not quite good enough, as late-game situations have consistently gone against the Wildcats.
After battling back from 38-30 halftime deficit, the Wildcats narrowed the lead to 65-64 on Steven Werner’s three-point play with 1:03 left. Werner, who scored 18 points to lead the Wildcats, grabbed an offensive rebound to keep ACU’s final possession alive with 29 seconds left off a missed Eric Lawton layup attempt.
Another Lawton shot was blocked out of bounds by ENMU’s Phil Henry with 24 seconds left, and the Wildcats held the ball for a final play. The Greyhounds trapped Lawton above the key, who swung it out to Cornellus Cammock. His shot was long off the right side of the rim, and guard Parker Wentz’ buzzer-beating tip-in attempt was long off the left side.
Sitting at ninth place in the 10-team LSC, ACU (10-10, 4-8) has lost four one-possession games in conference. Flip four to five possessions in those games the Wildcats’ way, and they’re a half-game behind Midwestern State for first place.
“It’s been that way all year,” Wildcat coach Joe Golding said. “You look at the Eastern games, they both come down to the last possession. Blackmon hits a shot against us there, we don’t finish here. That’s two wins for them, two losses for us.
“We get beat by Midwestern at the buzzer, get beat by Commerce at the buzzer. We just haven’t found ways to win games, and we’ve got to keep battling. We’re still in the mix. We can’t quit.”
Neither can the Greyhounds, who will try to move up in their final six conference games, starting with a 7:30 p.m. home tilt against Cameron.
“I felt like we were very fortunate to win,” Helton said. “I’m very disappointed in how we rebounded in big possessions, how we didn’t come up with the basketball. I thought we turned it over a couple of times. But a win is a win; you take it and run with it. I’m happy we won, but we have to play better.”
Romero, who scored 17 points in the matchup at Abilene, has registered two of his three double-figure nights against the Wildcats while averaging 5.4 points against the rest of the ENMU schedule.
Golding had a simple answer for Romero’s success: Pick your poison.
“We’re worried about Blackmon, and trying to stop him, and Romero’s wide open,” Golding said. “He does a good job. That’s why they’re a tough team to beat, because they can score a lot of different ways.”
Romero, who came to the Greyhounds as a scoring-minded point guard from St. Michael’s, knows that’s the strategy and hit 3-of-6 from beyond the arc to make ACU pay for it.
“I’m just trying to be aggressive, give a lift off the bench and do what I can,” Romero said. “I know my role, I know I’m not going to get 20 points. But when I’m open, I’ve got to knock down that shot. Hopefully, it can continue.”