By Dave Wagner
The Southwestern Oklahoma Bulldogs played like, well, Bulldogs.
Taking control of the game early and controlling the tempo most of the way, the Bulldogs upset Eastern New Mexico 61-52 Tuesday in a Lone Star Tournament quarterfinal game at Greyhound Arena.
Eastern (20-8) suffered through an uncharacteristically poor shooting night from the field and the free throw line in the loss that could put the Hounds on the bubble for an NCAA Division II berth. Ranked fourth in the South Central Region coming into the week, the LSC South regular-season champions could be knocked out if there are many upsets in the LSC, Heartland and Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association tournaments.
“Now we’ve got to pray that people help us,” Eastern coach Shawn Scanlan said. “You always want to be in control of what happens, and we’re not in control now.”
Junior forward Jamaal Shell scored 26 points and junior forward Lee J. Kirkpatrick added 16 as Southwestern (18-10) advanced to the semifinals on Friday night against Northeastern State at Stephenville, Texas.
The Bulldogs, who didn’t secure a bid in the eight-team tournament until the final night of the regular season and entered the game as the No. 4 seed from the North, took the lead for good on Shell’s 3-pointer with 8:47 left in the first half and nursed it along with a ball-control offense.
“We have to play that way,” first-year SWOSU coach Scott Reed said. “We knew we had to make it a possession by possession game.
“We’re really excited about being able to go on and play another game.”
Eastern, the top seed from the South, shot 38 percent from the field, including 3-of-13 from 3-point distance, and hit only 7-of-14 free throws. The Hounds got within a point with 6 1/2 minutes left, but the Bulldogs took advantage of scrambling defensive pressure to score four breakaway layups the rest of the way — three in the final 26 seconds.
Junior forward Jamaal Hunnicutt led ENMU with 16 points and 12 rebounds, while Coleman and junior Travazz Buckley added 10 points apiece.
“We had a chance to get control of the game at the start of the second half and we didn’t,” Scanlan said. “We never got the game on our terms, and when we had the chance we didn’t convert.”
ENMU trailed by 10 points late in the opening half, but closed to 33-32 early in the second half. But Southwestern stayed ahead with 3-pointers from Marcel Justin, Shell and Malcolm Overton in the next 4 1/2 minutes.
Overton’s gave the Bulldogs a 44-39 lead with 11:59 to go, and ended a 7-0 ENMU run.
“Malcolm Overton hit a big, big three,” Reed said. “We had gone blank for two or three possessions, but that one kind of got our feet under us.”
The Hounds closed to 55-52 with a minute left after back-to-back baskets by senior Garland Coleman, then forced a travel by SWOSU’s Darron Lewis in the backcourt. But Kennis Green’s forced 3-pointer for the tie was off the mark, and Lewis was left open to score on the other end.