By Dave Wagner
Considering they’ve been on the road for the most part, Eastern New Mexico University’s basketball teams can’t be too displeased with the way things went during the first semester.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.
The defending Lone Star Conference South Division champion ENMU men take a 6-3 record and a four-game winning streak into Wednesday’s New Year’s Eve afternoon rematch against winless Oklahoma Panhandle State (0-8) at Greyhound Arena. It will be the Greyhounds’ first home game since their Nov. 18 opener against Incarnate Word.
“We’ve been consistent in terms of our effort,” men’s coach Shawn Scanlan assessed. “It’s been a tough road having all those games away from home, but we’ve been able to survive it.”
Senior guard-forward Garland Coleman, the reigning LSC South Division defensive player of the year, has stepped up his offensive production. He’s averaging a team-leading 15.6 points while shooting 68 percent from the floor.
“A lot of his points are coming from what he’s done defensively,” Scanlan said. “His offense is more a result of understanding where his strengths lie.”
Junior forward Travazz Buckley has contributed 35 points and 21 rebounds since joining the active roster two games ago, while junior guard Kennis Green has started to find his shooting range after a slow start.
“Travazz is still trying to feel his way through,” Scanlan said. “With Kennis, more than anything, he’s found out when to shoot and when not to.”
The Hounds, who have four wins by four points or less, are scheduled to reconvene for practice today after a weeklong break. Following Wednesday’s game, the remaining 17 contests on the schedule are against LSC competition — five crossovers against the North Division, followed by 12 South contests.
Scanlan said when junior Edmound Elzy (sprained ankle) returns to action, hopefully right away, it would make the team at full strength for the first time.
The main disappointments have on the defensive end, Scanlan said. “We’re giving up too many easy baskets,” he said.
The Hounds won the South last year with an 11-1 record that was somewhat deceptive — ENMU had three overtime wins and a number of other close finishes.
“We certainly don’t expect to go 11-1 in Lone Star Conference South games,” Scanlan said. “We’re not a great team right now. We have a chance to be a good team, but we have to grow into that.”
The women (4-5), who split a pair of home tilts last week after playing their first seven away from Portales, return to action Jan. 3 in a Lone Star Conference home crossover against Southeastern Oklahoma.
Junior guard Laci Lee had back-to-back 20-plus performances in the final two games before the break, and leads ENMU with a 15.6 scoring average.
Playing more shooting guard than point guard has helped, ENMU women’s coach Dan Buzard said. Lee is shooting 48 percent from the floor, including 40 percent on 3-pointers, and 80 percent from the free throw line.
“Laci’s playing like Laci can play,” Buzard said. “Playing a different position has helped her relax and score more.”
Buzard said the Zias have had a difficult schedule, but could have two or three more wins had they limited turnovers. They’re averaging nearly 23 per outing, compared with 16 1/2 for their opponents.
“We’re not making good decisions sometimes, and we’re rushing sometimes,” Buzard said. “If we can get more consistent and cut down our turnovers, we’re going to have a chance (to win) in every game.”
The Zias have started the same five players every time so far, but sophomore post Tiana Bryant — a transfer from the University of New Mexico who played for the first time in last week’s 74-72 overtime loss to Colorado State-Pueblo — could work herself into the mix.
“She makes us deeper in the post area,” Buzard said. “She’ll have to go in there and earn her spot, but she’s got the ability to do that.”
Buzard said the Zias, who won’t return to practice until Tuesday, have the ability to earn one of the South’s four berths in the LSC postseason tournament.
“I look for us to get a lot better after Christmas,” he said.