By Dave Wagner
Jamal Washington wasn’t sure how much good he’d be Saturday to Eastern New Mexico University.
Despite an injured right thumb, the junior college transfer from California turned out to be plenty good, scoring a season-high 21 points as ENMU rallied from a slow start and beat Southeastern Oklahoma 86-73 in a Lone Star Conference men’s crossover game at Greyhound Arena.
“I didn’t think I was going to play that well,” said Washington, who tore ligaments in his thumb. “Our team is guard-strong. I feel we have some of the best guards in the nation, and any one of them can go for about 20 any time.
“I’m low-profile, so they (Savages) probably didn’t even know about me. I guess you could say I was below the radar.”
Washington jumpstarted a 17-0 with a 3-pointer after Eastern fell behind 16-2 five minutes into the game. Junior Kennis Green’s 3-pointer put the Hounds in front 19-16 with 10:15 left in the half, and they stayed in front the rest of the way except for a brief tie just before halftime.
Washington, who hit 7-of-9 shots from the field, entered the contest when junior Irshaun Pinckney was ejected from the game for a flagrant foul. Eastern coach Shawn Scanlan said officials ruled Pinckney was retaliating after the junior forward thought he’d been fouled hard by SOSU’s Eric Babers.
Travazz Buckley added 19 points, Kennis Green 18 and Jamaal Hunnicutt 10 for the Hounds, who dominated the glass 48-27 behind nine rebounds each from Hunnicutt and Buckley and eight from Washington.
Winners of eight straight, the Hounds (8-3) didn’t waste much time turning the game around, forcing the Savages (6-4) into numerous turnovers during their 17-point run. Then, after Southeastern’s Stephen Harrel scored, ENMU added six more points for a 25-18 lead.
The Savages pulled even 32-32, but Eastern scored the final six points of the half and SOSU never got any closer.
Forward Jeremy Brown scored eight points and guard Cedric Walker hit a pair of 3-pointers to stake Southeastern to its early lead.
Scanlan said Southeastern took advantage of the Hounds’ indifferent play early.
“We came out not completely prepared to play,” Scanlan said. “To their (Savages’) credit, they played really well (early).
“We’re still growing as a team, and that was an example of how not to go about it. Fortunately, we got our motors going and played much better as the game wore on.”
Washington credited Scanlan for getting the Hounds on track, noting that he jumped on the team hard during the first media timeout.
“Things started looking up after that,” he said. “It was just that initial timeout that we needed. We buckled down and played good defense for four or five possessions, and we were setting the tempo from then on.”
Scanlan said the Hounds got solid bench play from Washington, forward Edmound Elzy and point guard David Hamilton.
“David and Jamal came in and gave us a really positive impact,” he said.
Four Savages also reached double figures — three off the bench. Guard Jason Stampley scored 16 points and Maurice Gardner had 13 while Brown, who eventually fouled out with only one more basket after his early run, and Clint Baker added 10 apiece.