By Dave Wagner
With four games left in the regular season, Eastern New Mexico University men’s basketball coach Shawn Scanlan and acting women’s coach Dustin Klafka aren’t particularly concerned with making the Lone Star Conference tournament.
Both ENMU squads have a chance, but they have their work cut out trying to jump into the LSC South Division’s top four.
Eastern’s teams play tonight at Texas A&M-Commerce and Saturday night at Midwestern State before closing out the regular season with two home games each next week.
“The best situation that could happen to us is that we need to win out,” Scanlan said, “and let everything fall where it may.”
The ENMU men (9-14, 2-6 South) are sixth in a seven-team division. The Greyhounds, who are three games out of fourth in the loss column, probably need some help to make it even if they win out.
Still, they’re finishing up against the top four teams, including co-division leaders Commerce and Midwestern this weekend.
“We just have to take it one at a time,” Scanlan said.
The Hounds are the two-time defending division champions, but have been beset by up-and-down play and personnel losses. They dropped close games at home against both Commerce (97-90) and Midwestern (92-86 in overtime).
“You never know what that does,” Scanlan said, “but (pulling those games out) certainly gives you wins that you don’t have now.”
Commerce has probably been the LSC’s best team this season. The Lions have been ranked nationally most of the year, and are currently ranked third in the South Central Region.
“I think they’ve got the (South’s) best personnel,” Scanlan said. “I thought they played real well here. They pose problems on a lot of fronts. they’ve got a lot of guys who can hurt you.”
The Zias (9-14, 3-7) were tied for fourth with Texas A&M-Commerce (12-11, 7-3) two weeks ago, but lost four games in a row against South contenders Abilene Christian and Angelo State while the Lions were making hay against Texas Woman’s and Texas A&M-Kingsville.
Still, if the Zias upend Commerce tonight, the schedule turns in their favor and they have a decent chance to make a run at it.
“We’ve got to win (tonight),” Klafka said. “If we do, we’ve got a shot if we can put things together.
“We’ve got to basically win out, and Commerce can’t win again.”
The Lions have plenty of talent, although they’ve been an inconsistent team much of the year.
“Commerce is a tough, tough matchup for us,” Klafka said. “Their athleticism and size really hurt us.”
Still, ENMU has beaten the three teams remaining on its schedule after tonight, while Commerce will close out against the top three teams.
“If we can get this game, we can put ourselves in a good situation,” Klafka said.
All Times MST
What: ENMU (9-14, 2-6) at Texas A&M-Commerce (19-4, 6-2), 7 p.m. today, and at Midwestern State (14-9, 6-2), 7 p.m. Saturday, in Lone Star Conference South Division games.
Radio: KSEL-FM 95.3.
Of note: By losing at Texas A&M-Kingsville 72-69 on Saturday, Commerce fell from fifth to 11th in the NCAA Division II national rankings. The loss snapped the Lions’ seven-game winning streak, and dropped them into a tie for first with Midwestern. … In the earlier meeting at Greyhound Arena, 5-8 junior PG Jermart Miller lit up ENMU for 15 points in a span of just over two minutes and Commerce erased an 11-point deficit in the final six minutes to win 97-90 and avoid an 0-2 South start. … Miller (16.3 ppg) leads three Lions averaging in double figures. … Commerce has gone 11-0 at home this season, while MSU is 11-2. … Midwestern’s two division losses have been by 26 points at Commerce and by 29 at West Texas A&M. … The Indians are led by 6-2 senior G Jay January (14.6 ppg), while 6-6 senior F Justin James is averaging a double-double (11.5 ppg, 10.3 rpg). … In a 92-86 overtime win at Greyhound Arena on Jan. 22, January’s 3-point play with 3:55 left in OT put MSU in front for good.
What: ENMU (9-14, 3-7) at Texas A&M-Commerce (12-11, 7-3), 5 p.m. today, and at Midwestern State (9-14, 4-6), 5 p.m. Saturday, in Lone Star Conference South Division games.
Radio: KSEL-AM 1450.
Of note: Commerce got double-doubles from 6-4 junior C Portia Mitchell (23 points, 19 rebounds) and 6-1 junior F/C Althea Byfield (15 and 12) in Saturday’s 80-55 romp at Kingsville. Mitchell, a transfer from Southern Cal, also had five blocks. … Byfield, who had the first triple-double (21 points, 11 rebounds and a school-record 12 steals) in the program’s history last week at Texas Woman’s, and Mitchell are the last two South Division players of the week. … Four Lions average in double figures, led by 5-9 senior G Hazel Woods (17.5). … Commerce rallied for a 71-67 victory earlier at Greyhound Arena. … MSU had put together a three-game winning streak before losses last week at Kingsville (73-70) and TWU (74-57). … Seven of the team’s 10 players are juniors. … ENMU whipped the Lady Indians 67-52 in the earlier meeting. … Midwestern has two players averaging in double figures in 5-8 junior G Kelly Cleavinger (11.5) and 5-11 senior F Adrian Fincher (10.8).