By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers
Senior guard Jermart Miller scored the final seven points of the game, including a go-ahead four-point play with 18 seconds left, to rally Texas A&M-Commerce to a 71-69 victory over Eastern New Mexico University Thursday night in a Lone Star Conference men’s crossover game at Greyhound Arena.
Miller, held in relative check for much of the game, scored 11 of Commerce’s final 13 points over the last 3 1/2 minutes, rallying the Lions from a six-point deficit.
Miller finished with 26 points for Commerce (8-1), which extended its winning streak to seven. Chris Fantroy added 13 and Lamar Searight 11.
“He’s a good player,” ENMU coach Shawn Scanlan said of Miller. “We did a good job on him for (most) of the night. We made him take tough shots.
“We tried to keep a fresh body on him most of the night, but sometimes you just have to take your hat off to him.”
Miller did a lot of damage last year at Greyhound Arena, scoring most of his 29 points to help the Lions pull out a 97-90 win.
The Hounds (3-4), losing their third in a row, got 15 points from junior guard Stephen Wilson, 14 from junior forward Ira Cross and 11 from junior guard Travis Carr.
Down by six at halftime, the Hounds went in front 49-48 with 10:13 left on a 3-pointer by Carr and never relinquished the lead until Miller’s late heroics.
Jolen Montoya gave the Hounds a 69-64 lead on a steal and driving layup with 1:18 left. After Miller scored for Commerce, ENMU’s Tristan Largent was called for a charge in the lane with 31.6 seconds left and the shot clock running out.
Miller then made the game-tying shot from wide left over Largent, who was called for a foul on the play. Miller made the free throw, then added an insurance free throw after Montoya’s bank shot from the left side was off.
Largent missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer from the left corner as time ran out.
Commerce coach Sam Walker said the Lions were fortunate to get the win.
“I really thought coach Scanlan’s team played harder and more efficiently than us,” he said. “They got every loose ball and every hustle play. They just didn’t get the ball to fall for them.”
Walker said his team didn’t overlook the Hounds, noting that the trip to ENMU and to West Texas A&M is a tough one for his team.
“We watched last year’s game on film and knew how difficult it would be,” he said.
The Hounds, who couldn’t get their offense going in losing a pair of crossover games in Oklahoma, continued to struggle in the first half against the Lions. Still, despite shooting only 26 percent (11-of-42), ENMU was able to keep the game close.
Cross led the Hounds with 10 points at the half, but the rest of the team was just 6-of-34 from the field.
The teams exchanged the lead early before Commerce opened a 22-14 lead with eight minutes left after an 11-0 run, capped by seven consecutive points by Fantroy.
The Lions eventually extended their lead to 28-18, but a 3-pointer by freshman guard Joshua Jackson with under two minutes left kept the Hounds within 33-27 at the break.
Commerce, getting 11 points from Fantroy and nine from Miller, shot 52 percent for the half on 12-of-23. But the Lions committed 10 turnovers and were outrebounded 25-20 by ENMU, which grabbed 15 offensive rebounds in the half.