By Dave Wagner: Freedom New Mexico
PORTALES — Things didn’t go well at all for Eastern New Mexico University’s men Thursday night — until it mattered most.
Trailing by 12 points with less than eight minutes remaining, the Greyhounds finished the game on a 13-1 run over the final four-plus minutes to squeak past Texas A&M-Kingsville 60-56 in Lone Star Conference play at Greyhound Arena.
The Hounds (12-8, 5-6 LSC), who improved to 7-1 at home, went without a field goal for five minutes at the start of the game and trailed until senior guard Reggie Nelson’s driving layup tied it 56-56 with 1:11 left. Kingsville (8-11, 3-7) missed two shots on the ensuing possession before junior guard Devone Davis drove for a 6-footer from the lane with nine seconds to go.
Kingsville’s Marcus Ford, lining up a potential go-ahead 3-pointer in front of the Javelinas’ bench, stepped on the sideline with 3.2 seconds left. Nelson, an 89 percent foul shooter, made both free throws a second later to seal the win.
“We showed a lot of heart to win,” ENMU coach Andrew Helton said. “Plain and simple, we were bad for 30 minutes. We played our butts off to win the game.”
Nelson finished with 18 points for ENMU, which was credited with just three assists against 25 turnovers but shot 58 percent from the field in the second half. Senior post Curtis Wilkinson added a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds, while Davis finished with 11 points.
ENMU played without senior forward Max Carrier (knees) while senior forward Aaron Edwards (shoulder) was hurt after playing seven minutes in the first half and did not return.
“(Freshman guard) Dylan Houlihan gave us a big lift tonight off the bench,” Helton said. “I thought Curtis was really big, and obviously Reggie and Mick (Davis).
“Stefan (Mirabal, senior guard) struggled most of the night, but he made two big (late 3-pointers) for us.”
The Javelinas, meantime, were without starting guard Ashton Brown, their second-leading scorer (15.2 ppg) and the NCAA Division II free throw leader at 97 percent. Coach Pete Peterson said Brown, who is from New York, has an ailing mother and some other family issues and may make a trip home in the next day or two.
Senior forward Robert Williams carried the team, especially early, with 20 points, while Ford had four 3-pointers and finished with 18 points.
“It’s a tough loss,” Peterson said. “It was a valiant effort on our part. I thought we fought hard and played outstanding defense most of the game.
“Give (ENMU) credit for stepping up and making some shots and making some big defensive plays when they needed them.”
Kingsville led 25-19 at halftime as both teams shot 29 percent from the floor, including a combined 1-of-17 from 3-point range. The Javelinas built a 39-26 lead with 14:22 to go, and Ford found the range for three 3-pointers in a span of less than three minutes to keep the margin at 50-38 with less than eight minutes remaining.
Derryl Nash’s baseline drive made it 55-47 with 4:40 left, but proved to be the Javs’ final field goal.
Mirabal’s 3-pointer with 4:03 left started the comeback for ENMU. Nelson had five points and Davis four in the late rally.