By Dave Wagner: Freedom New Mexico
PORTALES — So much for any shooting problems.
After finishing under 35 percent in each of their first two regular-season games over the weekend in the South Central Region Challenge at Tarleton State, Eastern New Mexico University’s men opened fire with 54 percent shooting Tuesday night, including 13-of-24 from 3-point range, in a 107-75 win over Oklahoma Panhandle State at Greyhound Arena.
Six players scored in double figures for the Greyhounds, led by senior guard Stefan Mirabal with 22 points, while junior forward Maurice McGee added a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Still, Hounds coach Andrew Helton pointed to his team’s defense, which held the Aggies (1-2) to two field goals — both 3-pointers — and just 10 points in the first eight minutes.
“The defensive end did it for us,” he said. “When they shoot 34 percent (22-of-64) and you outrebound them by 13 (44-31), you have a good chance to win.”
The Hounds (2-1) scored the first five points and never trailed. They led 55-33 at halftime, and only once did the margin get under 20 in the second half.
Senior guard Tralyn Harden and senior forward Aaron Edwards added 13 points each for ENMU. Sophomore guard Kyle Lantz went 4-for-5 from long range for a career-best 12 points, and senior forward Max Carrier added 11.
Point guards Devone Davis (eight) and Reggie Nelson (seven) combined for 15 of the team’s 26 assists.
“We got some good performances off the bench,” Helton said. “We’re a deeper team (than in the past), which helps us.”
Mirabal, the leading scorer on last year’s squad, said he and the Hounds were not concerned about their shooting struggles last weekend.
“We didn’t shoot very well, but coach tells us we’re too good a shooting team to keep missing, so keep putting them up,” he said. “We have a lot of weapons, which takes the pressure off the guys returning from last year.”
Panhandle coach Jerry Olsen said the Aggies came out in a triangle-and-two against Harden and Mirabal, but it had little effect. OPSU, which had only nine active players and lost freshman guard Michael Patterson to injury in the second half, couldn’t match the Hounds inside.
“I just think they (Hounds) played great,” Patterson said. “We didn’t want to let Mirabal and 23 (Harden) shoot, but we couldn’t get back on defense.”
All five Aggies starters ended up in double figures, led by senior guard Kevin Geofroy with 14 points, but he was just 1-for-6 from the field and their bench was limited to 18 points.