By Dave Wagner
Shawn Scanlan figures his Eastern New Mexico University men’s basketball team has its work cut out this weekend.
The Greyhounds (4-7), coming off consecutive solid outings, face a contrast of styles when they host Central Oklahoma tonight and Northeastern State on Saturday in Lone Star Conference crossover games at Greyhound Arena.
“All back-to-backs are tough,” Scanlan said. “But this one is especially tough because you have to change your mentality from one to the other.”
ENMU’s women, who haven’t played since Dec. 11, also face UCO and Northeastern in the first half of the twin bills.
While acknowledging that the Hounds have played better in their last two contests — a blowout win over St. Mary’s on Dec. 19 and a fairly close loss at Division I New Mexico State last week — Scanlan remains concerned about his teams defense. ENMU is giving up around 74 points per game, with foes shooting just under 50 percent overall from the floor and nearly 41 percent from 3-point range.
UCO (8-3) brings an up-tempo style into tonight’s matchup. The Bronchos have broken the century mark three times.
“They’re as good a team as we’ve faced,” Scanlan said. “They’re real similar to New Mexico State, except that they’ll press the whole game.
“They get a lot of offense out of their press. (Handling that) is going to be a real key for us.”
Northeastern, on the other hand, plays a completely different style. The Redmen, NCAA Division II national champions in 2003, are also 4-7 and have struggled early but are improving, Scanlan said.
“(NSU coach Larry Gipson’s) new guys haven’t totally adjusted to his system,” Scanlan said. “Northeastern’s almost exclusively a halfcourt team, whereas Central doesn’t really care how many points you score.”
Meantime, the Zias (5-4) enter the weekend with some injury concerns, acting head coach Dustin Klafka said.
Senior guard Laci Lee is questionable due to a foot problem, while senior guard Mika Robertson is expected to play despite spraining an ankle shortly after the team returned to practice last week.
Klafka said UCO (6-4) is “probably the most improved team in the league. They had a rough time last year, but they’ve gotten a couple of Division I transfers.”
Northeastern (6-5) has lost three in a row on the heels of a five-game winning streak. The Lady Reds are coached by Randy Gipson, Larry’s brother.
“Northeastern will always be extremely well-coached,” Klafka said. “They play solid defense. They’ll pack it in and try to take away our inside game and our penetration.”
The Zias faced NSU twice last season at Tahlequah, Okla. They took the Lady Reds to the wire in a crossover game in January before losing 53-49, but suffered a blowout loss in a first-round LSC tournament game in March with Lee and senior post Jereena Bosket not available for ENMU due to injury.
What: ENMU (4-7) vs. Central Oklahoma (8-3), 7:30 p.m. Thursday, and Northeastern State (4-7), 4 p.m. Saturday, in Lone Star Conference crossover games at Greyhound Arena.
Radio: KSEL-AM 1450 tonight, KSEL-FM 95.3 on Saturday.
Of note: ENMU and UCO are coming off solid road performances last Thursday against Division I teams — the Greyhounds lost at New Mexico State 86-76 after leading 42-40 at halftime, while the Bronchos were edged b Lamar 78-73. … UCO’s leading scorer is 6-4 senior G Deshone Henderson at 15.7 ppg. Henderson led the Broncos in scoring in 2003-04. … Sam Belt, a 6-5 freshman G/F who red-shirted last year at Division I Tulsa, is fourth on the team at 11.8 ppg and is the brother of former ENMU player Jon Belt. … Eleven of UCO’s 12 players average at least 15 minutes a game in an up-tempo style. … NSU, the Division II national champion in 2003, hasn’t played since losing to Rollins College (52-44) and South Dakota (71-59) in the High Desert Classic Dec. 18-19 in Las Vegas, Nev. ENMU also played in that event, losing to Pittsburg State and beating St. Mary’s. … The Redmen have three players averaging in double figures, led by 6-7 senior F Shiloh Shores (14.5 ppg). Shores is shooting 56 percent from the field and also leads the team in rebounding (5.6). … UCO leads the LSC in scoring offense (88.1 ppg), while Northeastern is second in scoring defense (59.7).
What: ENMU (5-4) vs. Central Oklahoma (6-4), 5:30 p.m. Thursday, and Northeastern State (6-5), 2 p.m. Saturday, in Lone Star Conference crossover games at Greyhound Arena.
Radio: KSEL-AM 1450.
Of note: The three teams have one common opponent — Missouri Southern, all at Joplin, Mo. While ENMU lost to the Lions 51-48 in late November, the others opened the season against Southern in mid-November, with NSU winning 50-46 and UCO losing 68-55. … The Zias return from a 26-day layoff from game competition with four players averaging between 10 and 11 points — led by 5-10 senior G Laci Lee (10.9) and 6-2 junior F Tiana Bryant (10.7). … Leading scorers for UCO are 5-10 sophomore G Meghan Craig (17.3 ppg), a transfer from Oklahoma State, and 5-9 senior G Laura Hamilton (13.0), who missed most of last season with an ACL injury. … UCO has three two-game winning streaks bracketed by four single losses. The Bronchos dropped their last game at Central Arkansas (73-69) on Dec. 30. … Like their men’s team, the NSU women play a more deliberate style. They average 60 points a game while giving up 57, third-best in the LSC. … Rikki Hall, a 5-11 senior F, is the team’s only double-figure scorer (13.3 ppg). … The Lady Reds are on a three-game losing streak, but all against quality foes — Angelo State (54-48), Abilene Christian (85-84 in overtime) and Drury (66-57).