By Dave Wagner
Facing the third-ranked team in NCAA Division II, Eastern New Mexico University’s men put themselves in position to win Thursday night.
But Tarleton State turned up the defense late, holding ENMU to just two field goals over the final eight minutes to eke out a 72-69 win in a Lone Star Conference crossover game at Greyhound Arena.
The Greyhounds (10-5) led 57-52 after Jamaal Hunnicutt’s tip-in with 8:02 left, but managed only 3-pointers by Kennis Green and Edmound Elzy from the field the rest of the way, the latter coming as time expired.
Senior guard Tim Burnette scored 16 points as the Texans (12-2) put all five starters in double figures. Forward David Stephens added 11 points and 11 rebounds.
ENMU held Tarleton to 38 percent field goal shooting, but gave up 21 offensive rebounds and committed 23 turnovers, including several in a stretch late where the Texans rallied to gain control.
“Offensive rebounds and turnovers killed us,” ENMU coach Shawn Scanlan said. “We did some things well, but there’s a very small margin for error when you play a team like that.
“I’m proud of my team’s effort, but I’m disappointed (to lose) and I know the players are too.”
Green scored 17 points for the Hounds off the bench. Hunnicutt added 11 points and a team-high nine rebounds, and senior Garland Coleman scored 10 points.
Eastern went on an 8-0 run, capped by a breakaway dunk from Coleman after he and Green combined to force a steal, for a 30-25 lead with four minutes left in the half. That was the biggest spread for either team until Burnette’s two free throws put the Texans up by six with nine seconds left.
Leading 62-61 with four minutes left, Tarleton switched from a man-to-man defense to a 3-2 zone out of a timeout and caused the Hounds problems.
“We got a couple of steals out of it,” Texans coach Lonn Reisman said. “I think it got us where we wanted to go.”
Scanlan said the Hounds simply didn’t adjust to the tactic.
“It shouldn’t have messed us up, but it did,” he said. “That was a great call on their part, but it shouldn’t have made that much difference.”
Green’s 3-pointer from the left corner pulled the Hounds to 67-66 with 1:07 left, but Tarleton’s Tierrius Thomas converted a conventional three-point play nine seconds later off a feed from Burnette to give the Texans control.
“This was a tough game on the road for us,” said Reisman, whose team plays at West Texas A&M on Saturday. “Shawn’s team plays with a lot of heart and with a lot of physicality.
“They’ve got a good team, and they played excellent. I’m proud of how our kids fought to win the game.”