WICHITA FALLS, Texas — Jamaal Hunnicutt is starting to accept a preseason challenge by his coach to step up his game.
Hunnicutt scored 23 points and grabbed nine rebounds in his latest solid effort as Eastern rallied from an eight-point deficit late in the second half and beat Midwestern State 79-76 on Thursday in a Lone Star Conference South contest.
Jamal Washington and Kennis Green added 15 and 14 points respectively off the bench as the Hounds (15-6, 5-1), who upped their lead in the LSC South with their fourth-straight win.
Hunnicutt, a 6-foot-4 junior from Amarillo, is averaging 16.7 points and 10.3 rebounds the last four games.
Eastern coach Shawn Scanlan said he challenged Hunnicutt, a three-year starter, to fill the shoes of Cedric Palmer, the LSC South Player of the Year as a senior last year.
“I think he’s starting to grow into that role,” Scanlan said. “He’s really giving us some consistency lately in that role.”
Marquette Wilkins tossed in 22 points for the Indians (13-7, 3-2), who led 74-66 with 3:38 to go in the game.
Travazz Buckley (11 points, nine rebounds) sparked a game-ending 13-2 run with a three-point play. Jamal Washington gave Eastern its first lead since midway through the second half mark when he stole the ball from Wilkins near halfcourt and fed Brent Cooper for a layup to make it 77-76 with 46 seconds left.
Hunnicutt made 2-of-4 free throws in the final 18 seconds before Midwestern missed a pair of desperation 3-point shots that would have sent the game into overtime.
“We got some key defensive stops and got the ball inside,” Scanlan said. “And we got some great play again off the bench by Jamal Washington and Kennis Green.”
Eastern finished with an uncharacteristic 23 turnovers but countered the sloppy ball handling by shooting 51 percent from the field
“We never got anything established,” Scanlan said. “It was really just a gusty effort. It’s a really tough place to win a game.”
Josh Drumgole and Justin James added 10 points each for Midwestern, which led 37-36 at halftime.