By Dave Wagner
Irshaun Pinckney struggled early trying to give Eastern New Mexico University’s offense some punch against Angelo State’s zone defense on Saturday, missing his first eight shots from the field and going scoreless in the first half.
But he eventually found the range, going 5-for-8 over the final over the final 17 minutes en route to 14 points as the Greyhounds turned back ASU 83-78 in Lone Star Conference South Division play at Greyhound Arena.
Junior Travazz Buckley posted his second consecutive double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds while junior Jamaal Hunnicutt added 10 points and 11 boards. All five starters scored in double figures as the Hounds (13-6, 3-1) pulled into a four-way tie with Midwestern State, Texas A&M-Kingsville and West Texas A&M atop the division.
ENMU hosts WT at 7:30 p.m. on Monday.
“You’ve got to be happy to be 3-1 in the division,” Pinckney said. “We lost to a good team in Kingsville, but we just have to take it one game at a time.”
Eastern coach Shawn Scanlan said his team handled Angelo State’s 3-2 and 2-3 zones reasonably well. The Hounds had 21 assists for the game, compared to only six turnovers.
“We’ve struggled so much all year against zones, but we were consistent tonight,” Scanlan said. “If we had a letdown from Thursday night, it was on the defensive end.”
Pinckney said his teammates gave him a boost at halftime.
“I couldn’t hit a shot (early), but the guys were all looking at me like, ‘Just keep shooting,’” said Pinckney, a Clovis High graduate. “We knew they were going to go zone against us. I had some good looks (early) against the zone; I just wasn’t knocking them down.”
Down 41-40, the Rams (10-9, 0-4) scored five points on their first two possessions of the second half and led 51-46 on a fast-break layup by guard Matt Hardin with 15:25 remaining.
Pinckney, who broke through on a jumper from the right wing with 16:40 left, and added a 3-pointer to kicked off a 9-0 run that gave the Hounds the lead for good. ENMU led by as much as nine points before fighting off a late Rams comeback.
Senior Garland Coleman had a perfect shooting night, going 5-of-5 from the field in the first half and adding four late free throws for 14 points. Point guard Brent Cooper added 10 points, all in the first half, while junior guard Kennis Green chipped in nine off the bench.
“I thought our game play was terrific,” ASU coach Joe Esposito said of playing zone. “We know we can’t match up with the athletes they have, but I thought my team responded tonight and played well.”
Guard Kenny Smith led the Rams with 18 points, while Hardin finished with 15 and forward Carlos Arroyo added 12.