Eastern New Mexico University’s men may have gotten an “A” for effort, but Saturday was an “L” no matter how it got sliced.
Fighting to move up the Lone Star Conference standings, and fighting against its personnel limitations, the Greyhounds fell 67-62 in overtime against a Texas A&M-Commerce team that was even more desperate to move up the standings.
“We needed that a whole lot more than they did,” Commerce coach Sam Walker said. “Our last two games are against Abilene and Angelo State. Depending on what they did tonight, the three of us could be in a three-way tie. One of us goes to the playoffs, the other two stay home, and we all face each other next week.”
Desmond King and Devondrick Walker scored 15 teach for the Lions (8-16, 3-13 LSC), who let a 12-point lead slip away and survived regulation when an injury — and suspension-riddled Greyhounds squad — couldn’t seal the deal in the closing minutes.
The Greyhounds (13-12, 6-10) went without a basket for the final 2:37 of regulation, including a last-second attempt by Devone Davis, and went scoreless for the final 2:35 of the extra frame on 0-of-5 shooting from the field and 0-of-2 from the line against tight backcourt defense from Walker.
“With as shallow as our bench was, the last couple of minutes you’ve got to put the ball in the basket,” ENMU coach Andrew Helton said with frustration. “We didn’t do that, and that’s the bottom line.
“The kids played their hearts out. They outrebounded them by nine. Rebounding’s a great stat to measure heart, and to outrebound these guys by nine with Desmond King and as much size at they have (says something).”
Just like in ENMU’s Wednesday loss at fifth-ranked Tarleton State, the Greyhounds were depleted with injuries to Daniel Strong, Max Carrier and Aaron Edwards in the frontcourt and the second game of a two-game suspension for point guard Reggie Nelson for an undisclosed violation of team policy.
And just like Wednesday, the Greyhounds who did dress played heavy minutes — Kyle Lantz played all 45 minutes of regulation and overtime, while Tralyn Harden logged 44 and Davis 42. Greg McFarland, who fouled out in regulation and scored 12 points, still logged 36 minutes.
Curtis Wilkinson played 13 minutes of regulation and overtime with four fouls, before fouling out in the final seconds with 14 points and 13 boards to lead the team in both categories.
Helton said the team played well, including Dylan Houlihan with seven points in 23 minutes of action, but, “we’ve got to win the game; that’s the bottom line, for all of that.”
Sam Walker said in post-game interviews that his players were confident they could pull off the win, but it wasn’t because they were going to make it a war of attrition.
“You look at our minutes, we played 45 minutes (Brad Hambrick), 41 minutes (Walker), 39 minutes (King),” Walker said. “It was a game where coming in, both teams were going to play seven players apiece. We were running out of gas too, and (our bench options were) not the reason we won. We made some shots and they missed some shots.”
The Greyhounds are currently seventh in the LSC standings, and will clinch a berth in the conference tournament with either a home win against Cameron Wednesday or a road win Saturday at Midwestern State. The Mustangs could wrap up first place before that if they can beat West Texas A&M on Thursday.