By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers
With only 24 points at halftime on Saturday, the Eastern New Mexico University men’s basketball team hardly resembled the squad that rolled up 97 points two nights earlier.
Things didn’t look any better when the Greyhounds had a shot clock violation on their first possession of the second half, followed by a 3-pointer by Abilene Christian’s Demarquez Rembert for a 14-point Wildcats lead.
But Eastern slowly worked its way back, shooting 62 percent from the field and going 20-for-21 from the free thrown line after halftime to post a 70-64 Lone Star Conference South Division win at Greyhound Arena.
Freshman guard Joshua Jackson scored a season-best 19 points for the Hounds (11-14, 5-5 South), who maintained their fourth-place status in the division and closed in on an LSC tournament berth.
“The first half we didn’t come out ready,” said Jackson, who also had four assists and five rebounds. “We had to get the jitters out. The second half we came out more energetic.”
Jackson, the Hounds’ top free throw shooter at 80 percent, also helped put the game away with four free throws in the final 20 seconds.
“Josh did a lot of good things tonight,” ENMU coach Shawn Scanlan said. “And defensively, he gave us a good presence too.”
If you could burn one half of a game tape, Scanlan might do it with the first 20 minutes of this one. The Hounds shot just 33 percent from the field, including 1-of-9 from 3-point range, in a sluggish performance.
“I’ll hand our guys this — they did come out in the second half with a different look in their eyes and they played better,” Scanlan said. “We were lethargic when the game started, and I don’t know why.”
Junior center Mikal Monette added 11 points and senior guard Jolen Montoya had 10 for the Hounds. Junior Ira Cross, only a 55 percent free throw shooter coming in, added eight points on 8-for-8 from the free throw line.
Jackson said the Hounds had to ride their defense.
“Coach has been stressing that the last couple of games,” he said. “We know we can play offense, but the question is how well we’re going to play defense.”
Jackson and his teammates did a creditable job on Rembert, a 6-foot-6 forward-guard who leads Abilene Christian in scoring. After getting 33 in the Wildcats’ 82-73 win over ENMU in Abilene, he managed only two points in the first half and finished with 17 on 6-of-16 shooting from the field.
“I thought in the second half, we didn’t play as well on offense or defense,” first-year Wildcats coach Jason Copeland said. “And I thought Shawn made some good adjustments against us.
“When your two leading scorers (Rembert and 6-2 junior guard Tiago Souza) go 10-for-30, it’s hard to win. But our defense is what really hurt us, giving up 46 points in the second half.”
Mauro Matai finished with 13 points and Souza and guard Cameron Holston added 10 each for the Wildcats.
ENMU finally took its first lead of the night at 52-51 on two free throws by freshman forward Jake Holladay with 7:10 to go.