Eastern New Mexico University’s men picked a bad time to have perhaps their worst half of the season.
Leading by eight points at halftime, the Greyhounds missed their first eight shots and turned the ball over four times in being outscored 13-0 over the first five minutes of the second half in dropping a 66-62 Lone Star Conference decision to Texas A&M-Kingsville on Thursday night at Greyhound Arena.
The loss drops ENMU (10-13, 7-8 LSC) into a three-way tie for fifth in the conference with Texas A&M-Commerce and Kingsville (11-11, 7-8), with three games to play.
Junior guards Rashad Basey and Jamahl Brown scored 16 points each for the Javelinas. Reid Wallace, a 6-foor-4 senior forward, hit a big 3-pointer from well beyond the arc with the shot clock running out, giving the Javs a 58-51 lead with 3:15 left.
Despite shaky free-throw shooting late, Kingsville managed to hang on.
“We were just trying to take some time off at the end, and then we started missing free throws,” Kingsville coach Pete Peterson said. “I was pleased with our defensive effort. If they (Hounds) get in a comfort zone, they’re really tough to defend.”
ENMU, which got 18 points and 13 rebounds from junior guard Rafael Love and 10 points each from junior forward Dennis Hardwell and junior guard Jordan Romero, shot 52 percent (15-for-29) in pulling to a 36-28 halftime lead. The Hounds, though, went just 8-of-34 the rest of the way, including 2-of-15 from long range.
“There’s not much to say,” a frustrated ENMU coach Andrew Helton said. “We were terrible in the second half, we turned it over a lot and we didn’t make shots.
“We just didn’t play very well as a group.”
After falling behind following Kingsville’s run out of halftime, the Hounds regained a 47-46 lead on two free throws by freshman forward Lawrence Domingo with 8:31 left. Then they hit another dry spell, going four minutes without scoring as the Javs opened a 55-47 lead.
Kingsville missed six free throws in a row before Wallace nailed his 3-pointer with an ENMU defender challengng him. He added two free throws three possessions later to stretch the lead to nine.
The Hounds pulled to three points twice in the final minute, first on a 3-pointer by Romero and then on two free throws by Romero after ENMU forced a backcourt turnover. Basey made the second of two foul shots for the final margin with 18 seconds left.
“You can’t lose a home game when you’re up eight at halftime,” Helton said. “It’s very disappointing, but we’ve got to bounce back on Saturday (against Incarnate Word in a 4 p.m. game at Greyhound Arena).”