By Dave Wagner
With the Lone Star Conference South Division lead on the line, Eastern New Mexico University’s men struck the first blow against rival West Texas A&M.
After seeing their tentative 30-27 halftime lead cut to a single point with a turnover on the second-half inbound pass, ENMU put together a 9-0 run and never looked back Monday in beating the Buffaloes 89-74 at Greyhound Arena.
Junior forward Jamaal Hunnicutt nearly had his second triple-double in a week with 18 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists while junior guard Kennis Green added 17 points, including two dagger-like 3-pointers that helped open a 21-point cushion with less than nine minutes left as Eastern took over sole possession of first place.
ENMU (14-6, 4-1) and WT (13-7, 3-2) meet again Monday in Canyon, Texas.
“This was a big win,” ENMU coach Shawn Scanlan said. “The difference in this game was the spurt we got in the second half. I thought our guys responded well and took advantage of some opportunities.”
Garland Coleman added 14 points for the Hounds while Travazz Buckley, scoreless at halftime, finished with 11 as the hot-shooting Hounds (57 percent from the field) scored 59 points in the second half.
Both teams were turnover-plagued early and struggled to get into a rhythm.
“I don’t know what it was,” said ENMU junior forward Edmound Elzy, who contributed nine points, four rebounds, two steals and a block in just 11 minutes off the bench. “We just stayed focused. We owned the first five minutes (after halftime) and got (the lead) up to 10.”
WT senior guard Rod Prater finished with 22 points, but after scoring 11 in the first 11 1/2 minutes of the game, he had only two more before hitting three 3-pointers in the final 2:15.
“I don’t think there’s much question in my mind that he’s certainly one of the best offensive players in the whole conference,” Scanlan said.
Guard Carl Lamb added 20 points and five assists for WT and forward Jason Campbell. chipped in 17 points and eight rebounds from
“They defended us well,” WT coach Rick Cooper said of the Hounds. “We couldn’t get any penetration, and when we did get opportunities around the basket we didn’t finish very well.
“Eastern did what they had to do; they got the ball inside. They were shooting layups and we were shooting jump shots.”
Elzy, slowed for some time by an ankle injury, said the bench played a major role in the win.
“Everybody played well,” he said. “It’s one of the first games where everyone went out and utilized their full abilities.
“This was probably my best game defensively; I was proud of my defense. I’m just glad I made some things happen tonight.”
WT’s Richard Higginbotham stole Irshaun Pinckney’s inbound pass to start the second half and went in for a layup. Pinckney responded with a 3-pointer from the right wing.
Eastern forced the Buffs into several turnovers that led to fast breaks while building its huge lead. Green was on the receiving end of feeds from Hunnicutt and David Hamilton on back-to-back trips downcourt, and Elzy’s 3-pointer made it 66-45 with 8:47 to go.