If you’d told Eastern New Mexico University men’s basketball coach Andrew Helton that his team would have 28 turnovers and just 10 assists in Saturday’s Lone Star Conference game against unbeaten and 11th-ranked Midwestern State, he’d have figured there’s no way to win.
“I certainly would’ve thought we’re in trouble,” he said.
On the other hand, the Mustangs shot just 37 percent, went 5-for-27 from 3-point range and missed 12 of their 27 free throws.
ENMU, coming in with a four-game losing streak, also dominated the boards 42-26, never trailed and held on late for an 80-72 win over the Mustangs (13-1, 6-1 Lone Star Conference) at Greyhound Arena.
Junior point guard Devone Davis, who came in shooting about 56 percent for the season from the foul line, went 14-for-16 en route to a season-best 20 points. The Greyhounds (10-7, 3-5) converted 37-of-50 free throws, including 29-of-38 during a second half in which they only attempted nine shots from the field.
“We’ve come out struggling in the second half a lot of times, but this time we just wanted to put the pedal to the metal,” Davis said. “We’re trying to start something new. We need to get a good seed going into the (LSC) tournament.
“This was a big win. It gives us a lot of confidence.”
Except for a 2-2 tie, the Hounds led all the way. They shot 61 percent in the first half, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range, en route to a 40-26 halftime lead.
The Mustangs, who came from 12 points down with seven minutes left on Wednesday to beat West Texas A&M in overtime, closed to three points late in this one and stretched the game out as much as they could, losing four players to fouls. But Davis, who handled the ball against pressure for the most part, hit 9-of-10 free throws in the final 94 seconds.
“We knew they were going to make a run, but we wanted to go on a run after they made their run,” said Davis, who also had seven rebounds. “We knew free throws would decide it at the end.”
Senior guard Reggie Nelson added 17 points and seven rebounds, while senior forward Curtis Wilkinson finished with a double-double — 14 points, 12 rebounds — and senior guard Stefan Mirabal also had 14 points.
“It was good to get this one,” Helton said. “We hadn’t played all that well since Christmas.
“I’m glad we played well, and we had to play well to beat these guys.”
MSU’s three leading scorers — post Anthony Harris and guards LaMichael Rivers and Michael Loyd — were held to just six points in the first half. Loyd finished with 16 and Harris 13, while Rivers managed only four points for the game.
“Hats off to coach Helton,” MSU first-year coach Nelson Haggerty said. “He’s done a great job with his guys and they played well tonight.
“We fought our way back in the second half. We didn’t shoot well, but to our guys credit, we really got after them.”