CANYON, Texas — Junior guard Devon Branch, returning after missing four games with a knee injury, scored 27 points to lift Pittsburg State past Eastern New Mexico University’s men 86-84 on Friday in West Texas A&M’s Thanksgiving Classic.
The Greyhounds, who trailed by as many as 10 points in the second half and by eight with one minute and 22 seconds to go, had a chance to win the game in the final seconds.
After Rodney Blackmon made a pair of free throws to cut Pittsburg State’s lead to 85-84 with three seconds left, ENMU forced a turnover on the inbounds play with three seconds left. But Phil Henry was called to an offensive foul as the Hounds were inbounding, and the Gorillas escaped with the win.
For ENMU (2-3), Blackmon and fellow senior guards Rafael Love and Devone Davis combined for 64 points, with Blackmon scoring 24 and Love and Davis 20 apiece.
Junior guard Sam Pugh finished with a double-double for the Gorillas (3-2), scoring 22 points and grabbing 11 rebounds, while sophomore guard Jake Bullard did likewise with 15 points and a career-best 10 assists.
Pitt State shot 61 percent from the field (28-of-46) and made 8-of-13 3-pointers, allowing it to overcome 21 turnovers.
The Greyhounds played without senior forward Cornelius Cammock and sophomore forward Lawrence Domingo. Cammock was suspended for both games this weekend and Domingo for Friday’s game — he will be back in today’s 1:30 p.m. (MST) matchup against Southwestern Oklahoma — for their parts in Monday’s postgame melee with Lubbock Christian at The Rock in Clovis.
Pitt State put together a 15-3 run for a 17-8 lead just over eight minutes into the contest. The Hounds, though, grabbed a one-point lead with an 11-2 run late in the half before the Gorillas went up 38-35 at the intermission.
A layup by Davis gave ENMU a 42-41 lead with less than 17 minutes left. After Pitt State scored six consecutive points, Blackmon knocked down three consecutive 3-pointers and Love had five points in a 14-8 run over 2 1/2 minutes to put ENMU in front again 56-55 with 13 minutes to go.
Pitt State countered with a 17-6 surge to open a 72-62 advantage before the Hounds mounted their late comeback.
Second-half comebacks have been a trend this season for the Greyhounds. ENMU made big runs to end a pair of games against Lubbock Christian, one which they won and Monday’s game in which they tied the game late only to see the Chaps’ hit a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer.
A Hounds’ rally in their season-opener against Missouri Southern State also came came up short, 68-65.
ENMU committed just seven turnovers in the game, but missed 10 free throws and was held to 44 percent floor shooting, including 11-of-38 from long range.