Eastern New Mexico University men’s basketball coach Andrew Helton liked the way his team practiced when they returned from Christmas break.
It showed last week in Lone Star Conference crossover wins at East Central and Southeastern Oklahoma, in which ENMU averaged 89 points and won both by double-figure margins.
Needless to say, Helton is hoping the Hounds can build on that.
“We’ve practice very well since the break,” he said. “We’re doing a better job on our movement and cutting, and our chemistry is getting better.”
ENMU teams begin LSC South Division play tonight against Texas A&M-Kingsville at Greyhound Arena. Ironically, both men’s contingents are 5-7 coming in, while the women’s squads are 2-10.
Junior guard Tralyn Harden led the Hounds’ best offensive outing of the season in a 93-68 win Saturday at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, scoring a career-high 26 points on 9-of-11 shooting overall and 8-of-10 from 3-point range.
“He really got it going,” Helton said.
Kingsville has struggled to score, averaging 58.1 points and not reaching 70 in a game this season.
“They struggle at times shooting the ball, which we have too,” Helton said. “They’re a very fast, quick team. Coach (Pete) Peterson really does a good job.
“We just need to play well.”
The Zias lost one player for the season last week while another, senior guard-forward Cat Clay, sustained a foot injury at Southeastern which has her questionable for tonight’s game.
Senior forward Til-Lois Fifer, who has struggled with knee problems much of her career, underwent knee surgery last week, coach Linden Weese said.
Clay, who scored six points at Southeastern and is just five short of 1,000 for her career, was injured late in the game.
“I was afraid she might’ve broken it,” Weese said.
The Zias competed well at East Central and Southeastern, but lost because they shot well under 40 percent both nights.
Spots from the South in the LSC tournament may be wide-open, though. Five of the eight teams enter division play with losing records, and only Tarleton State (10-2) is more than two games above .500.
“I think it’s going to come down to who shoots the ball that night,” Weese said. “We’ve got to take care of the basketball and give ourselves a chance.”
Texas A&M-Kingsville (5-7) at ENMU (5-7)
What: Lone Star Conference South opener for both teams
When: 8 p.m. today at Greyhound Arena
Last time out: ENMU shot 77 percent (23-of-30) in the second half and turned a one-point halftime deficit into a 93-68 rout of Southeastern Oklahoma on Saturday. Meantime, the Javelinas shot 37 percent and committed 20 turnovers in a 72-53 loss on Saturday at Texas A&M-Commerce.
Last meeting: ENMU swept the season series from the Javelinas last year, winning 72-62 at Kingsville and 70-56 in Portales.
Of note: Kingsville’s only road win in five tries so far was a 56-51 verdict at Southeastern Oklahoma on Dec. 7. …… Antwan Mullins, a 5-foot-9 senior PG, leads the Javelinas in scoring at 10.0 ppg. Two others are at 9.5 or better. … The Javs have struggled to score, averaging just 58.1 ppg while holding opponents to 61.3. They shoot 39 percent from the field, 25 percent from 3-point range and 63 percent from the free throw line.
Texas A&M-Kingsville (2-10) at ENMU (2-10)
What: Lone Star Conference South Division opener for both teams.
When: 6 p.m. today at Greyhound Arena
Last time out: The Zias played well on Saturday, but dropped a 77-69 decision at Southeastern Oklahoma. Kingsville absorbed a 79-63 setback at Texas A&M-Commerce the same day.
Last meeting: The teams split in 2009-10, the Javelinas winning at home 77-61 and ENMU taking a 75-61 decision in Portales.
Of note: Kingsville is 0-6 on the road. The Javelinas’ wins were over Our Lady of the Lake (63-44) and Southwestern Oklahoma (68-64, OT). … The team’s best player is 5-11 sophomore P Victoria Gonzalez. She averages 11.2 ppg and shoots 53 percent from the floor, with 9.9 rebounds per outing (second in the LSC) and 21 blocks (third).
— Compiled by Dave Wagner