CANYON, Texas — It took Jamaal Hunnicutt a while to settle down Monday night.
Essentially playing in his hometown, the Eastern New Mexico University junior from Amarillo struggled with his offense, shooting just 2-of-11 from the field. But he put down 7-of-8 free throws in overtime, helping the Greyhounds nail down a 77-72 overtime win over West Texas A&M and keeping them in first place in the Lone Star Conference South Division.
Hunnicutt finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds, and has had three double-doubles and a triple-double during ENMU’s five-game winning streak. Junior Travazz Buckley scored 17 points for the Hounds (16-6, 6-1 South), while junior Jamal Washington added 15 off the bench and senior point guard Brent Cooper finished with 12.
“This has not been a place where Jamaal has had good games,” ENMU coach Shawn Scanlan said. “But as the game wore on, he made a big difference for us.
“I think he just wanted the ball in the overtime. I couldn’t be happier for him.”
Hunnicutt, a graduate of nearby Canyon Randall High School, admitted he was a little shaky at the start.
“The first half I was kind of nervous,” he said. “I felt myself struggling early. The last four or five games I’ve been in a rhythm. I tried to force it tonight, but coach said, ‘Just relax and play your game.’
“I tried to play defense and rebound and cause havoc on their (WT’s) end. In the overtime, I started getting aggressive taking the ball to the basket and getting to the foul line.”
Guard Rod Prater led four players in double figures for the Buffaloes (13-9, 3-4) with 20 points, including 5-of-10 from 3-point range.
“We had our chances to win, and they had their chances,” said WT coach Rick Cooper, whose squad lost its third game in a row. “They’re just a tougher basketball team than we are. Until we do the things we need to do to get a win, we won’t win.”
While ENMU never led by more than five points, WT opened a 49-42 lead on a basket by 6-foot-8 post Carlos Silva with 10:49 left. The Buffs led 52-46 after a 3-pointer by Prater with 7:57 to go, but ENMU countered with a 10-0 run over the next two minutes.
Washington’s 3-point basket with 1:43 left put the Hounds ahead 62-59 with 1:43 left, but Prater banked in a 3-pointer with 19 seconds left to tie the score at 64. After a timeout, Hunnicutt missed a short jumper from the right side as regulation time expired.
Eduardo Caviglia’s 3-pointer gave WT its final lead at 71-70 with 2:15 left in the overtime. Eastern outscored WT 7-1 the rest of the way as Hunnicutt made 5-of-6 free throws, blocked a shot and winged a baseball-style pass to set up Buckley’s fifth dunk of the night as time expired as Eastern swept its season series with WT.
ENMU has a three-game homestand coming up, beginning with games against Midwestern State on Thursday and Texas A&M-Kingsville on Feb. 19. Both trail ENMU by one game in the loss column.
“If we just look at this one game at a time, it’ll be fine with me, and our guys will do that,” Scanlan said. “This team just battles; they fight and never quit. We just hung in there. I’m real proud of the guys; this was a real solid win.”