By Dave Wagner, Freedom New Mexico
Sooner or later, you had to figure the Texas A&M-Commerce men’s basketball team was going to break through.
Losers of their first five games by a combined 24 points — including three decided on the final possession — the athletic Lions took advantage of a poor first half on offense by Eastern New Mexico University on Saturday and cruised to a 73-53 victory in a Lone Star Conference crossover game at Greyhound Arena.
Senior guard Kevin Widemond led four Commerce players in double figures with 21 points, including 5-of-6 from 3-point range. He scored 19 of his points after halftime.
The Lions shot 48 percent from the field, including 9-of-16 from 3-point range. They led from start to finish, and the margin was in double figures for the final 24 minutes.
“I think our guys felt like they had played good enough to win (before Saturday),” Commerce coach Sam Walker said. “I think we shot the ball well tonight.”
Forward Scooby Johnson added 12 points and forwards Champ Sylvester and Lance Jackson scored 10 apiece for Commerce.
On the other hand, the Greyhounds (2-5) struggled mightily in the first half in digging themselves a hole they couldn’t escape. They shot only 20 percent (6-of-30) from the field and trailed 31-17 at the break.
“The first half really set the table for an uphill climb,” said ENMU coach Shawn Scanlan said, whose squad lost its fourth in a row. “The first 10 minutes, I thought we defended pretty well, but our offense didn’t respond. You have to get some energy from your offense at some point.”
Junior forward Travis Cooper finished with team highs of 13 points and eight rebounds for the Hounds, while junior guard Jamaal McCoy added 11 points and senior guard Justin Redman-Trotter finished with 10.
McCoy and Redman-Trotter were emblematic of the team, though, combining to go 6-for-20 from the field and 0-of-7 from the 3-point line.
The Hounds had eight players in uniform with junior forward Kenneth Ward sitting out with a hand injury sustained earlier in the week in practice.
“We’ve got some major work to do,” Scanlan said. “Hopefully, everybody’s up to the challenge.
“Until we start piecing some positive things together, it’s going to be a long road.”
Commerce struggled to score early, but consecutive 3-pointers by Leonard Bishop and Widemond opened a 19-7 lead with 7:40 left in the half.
The Hounds countered with treys from Chad Johnson and Kendall Clark, but the Lions scored the next eight points and held ENMU to one field goal over the final six minutes of the half.
“We had some guys hit some big 3s, and we hadn’t been getting that,” Walker said. “Widemond and Sylvester hit some big shots tonight.
“I didn’t think we played exceptional defense. I thought it was a well-played game, but one team just hit more shots.”
ENMU has three games remaining before the holidays, all on the road. They have crossovers on Thursday at Northeastern State and on Saturday at Central Oklahoma.
Their next home outing is on Jan. 3 against LSC North member East Central.