By Kevin Wilson
Mr. Defense had a lot of offense, as it turned out, and the Greyhounds put enough of the little things for a season-opening victory.
Coleman and junior transfer Jamal Washington had 18 apiece to lead the Eastern New Mexico University Greyhounds, who closed out Incarnate Word at the free-throw line in a 76-62 victory Tuesday night at Greyhound Arena.
Coleman, last season’s Lone Star Conference-South Defensive Player of the Year, worked the baseline and the paint en route to a 7 of 11 night from the field.
“We lost four seniors and they made up a lot of our scoring load last year,” said the 6-foot-4 forward. “Coach told me if I play hard, good things will happen.”
The Greyhounds (1-0) had three players in double figures, also getting 15 from Edmound Elzy. Coleman scored six points during a 12-3 run midway through the second half, and the Hounds put the game out of reach by hitting their final 10 free throws.
“We’re a team that has to get to the free-throw line and then convert when we get there,” ENMU coach Shawn Scanlan said of his team, which hit 16 of 17 free throws in the second half. “It’s just the way we play.”
Like they will be most of the season, the Greyhounds were outsized by the visiting Crusaders, but Incarnate Word (1-1) couldn’t convert enough second-chance points on their 14 offensive rebounds and looked out of sync during crucial stretches.
“They deserved the win, they outplayed us,” Crusaders coach Al Grushkin said. “But we haven’t got a lot of repetitions with our people down (with injuries). A lot of things were just a little bit off.”
The Greyhounds, meanwhile, had most things working for them, especially the little things. Eastern only missed four of their 24 free throws on the night and got scoring from nine of the 10 players that saw playing time.
“Just the little things make a big difference,” Coleman said, “taking a charge here, finding an open teammate when they have a better shot.
“Everybody looks at the leading scorer, but when you put the little things together, it makes a big puzzle.”
Robert Tovar battled through foul trouble for most of the game, but still had 17 to lead three Crusaders in double figures.
Jamaal Hunnicutt led the Greyhounds with 11 rebounds to go along with eight points.
Scanlan felt the Greyhounds got quality minutes from point guard Paul Forrest, who converted a layup off of a steal during a 13-2 run — a late burst which put away what had been a close game for most of the night.
Junior guard Kennis Green was held out of the game, Scanlan said, as a disciplinary action for showing up late.
The Greyhounds will face Incarnate Word again on Dec. 13, near the end of an extended road trip that beings Friday against Rockhurst in a tournament hosted by Northwest Missouri State. Eastern will be home again on Dec. 31 against Panhandle State.