By Kevin Wilson: Freedom New Mexico
Midwestern State had plenty of talent, and speed to burn, and the outmanned Greyhounds couldn’t quite keep up.
Speedy guard Chris Hagan scored 15 points to lead a balanced effort, and the No. 11 Mustangs pulled away late after blowing a 16-point cushion to claim a 66-59 victory Saturday night at Greyhound Arena.
Jason Ebie added 12 points for the Mustangs (16-1, 2-1 Lone Star Conference South), who pulled off their second straight win after division rival Angelo State knocked them from the ranks of the undefeated.
First-year Eastern New Mexico University coach Andrew Helton said he was just happy the Hounds rallied from shooting at a 25 percent clip in the first half to tie the game 36-36 before Hagan led the deciding charge.
“We struggled offensively in the first half, that’s the bottom line,” Helton said. “Holding a team like that to 66 points, I can’t be disappointed.”
Ranked third in the LSC at 84.6 points a game going into Saturday, the Mustangs feed off the backcourt play of Hagan and Ebie, who created havoc on defense with six of Midwestern’s 11 steals.
“Those guys are as fast as anyone I’ve ever coached,” Mustangs coach Grant McCasland said. “They can move quickly and speed the game up.”
They did just that in the first half, forcing five turnovers on Eastern’s first eight possessions en route to a 9-2 opening burst.
The Mustangs pushed the lead to double figures quickly, but never took full advantage of a 5-of-20 first half for the Greyhounds (7-11, 2-2).
The Greyhounds’ inside-out game surfaced in the second half, with Reggie Nelson scoring nine points during a 16-3 second-half run. Nelson hit a pair of three-pointers, and converted a 3-point play to knot things up at 36 with 14:30 to play.
“They’re good when they go to (Tyler) Jefferson on the inside and play through him,” McCasland said of the run. “Nelson hit a couple of 3s and that really got them going.”
But from then on, the talent difference between a ranked team and a sub-.500 squad came out. Hagan gave the Mustangs the lead for good with a scoop shot in traffic a minute later, and Ebie hit a 3-pointer to push the lead to 10 with 5:04 to play.
“They’ve got a guy who was on the bench for Texas Tech, another guy who signed with Bradley, a guy who played for (Texas Christian) and a guy who played for Rice,” Helton said. “They’ve got mid-major players, and they’re well-coached.”
Jimmie Marshall scored a game-high 16 to lead three Hounds in double figures. Nelson added 13 and Jefferson 12 for Eastern, which hosts Angelo State Saturday.
“Angelo’s a huge game, and we need people here,” Helton said. “We got a great crowd tonight and we definitely need them Saturday.”