Eastern facing rugged road tests

By Dave Wagner

Record wise, Central Oklahoma and Northeastern State men’s basketball teams aren’t the imposing foes they were last season.

Still, Eastern New Mexico University men’s coach Shawn Scanlan is more concerned about getting the Greyhounds’ ship on course when they travel to Oklahoma for Lone Star Conference crossover matchups against the Bronchos and defending NCAA Division II national champion Redmen.

ENMU plays UCO in Edmond on Thursday and NSU in Tahlequah on Saturday. Women’s games at 5 p.m. and 1 p.m. (MST), respectively, tip off the doubleheaders.

Northeastern’s men (4-3) have had to replace several key players from last year’s championship squad, but opened a 22-point halftime lead on Tuesday in a 78-69 win at home over Missouri Southern.

Senior guards Darnell Hinson and Matt Cline, both key performers last year, combined for 54 points against the Lions (5-2). Hinson and Cline have each led the Redmen in scoring three times this year.

UCO, meantime, is just 1-5 after beating NAIA 22nd-ranked Oklahoma City 75-72 on Tuesday in its home opener, avenging an earlier loss to the Stars. The Bronchos pulled it out with a game-ending 11-2 run.

“Central hasn’t gotten off to a real good start,” Scanlan said. “They’ve struggled to get it together, but not because they don’t have good players.”

He said Eastern, which has lost three in a row after a 2-0 start, has its own concerns, notably in the area of turnovers.

“We know we’re playing two good teams on the road,” said Scanlan, whose team lost at Lubbock Christian 77-73 on Monday. “We’ve got to make sure we’ve got some of our things straightened out. Right now we’re just not playing very complete basketball.”

ENMU’s women are also 2-3 after losing their last three, although they played competitively in an 83-73 loss to unbeaten Emporia State on Saturday at Canyon, Texas.

The Zias are facing the top two teams in the LSC North preseason poll. UCO, which lost to ninth-ranked Drury and NAIA top-ranked Oklahoma City over the weekend, is 2-2 while NSU is 5-0 after an 82-63 thumping of Central Arkansas on Tuesday.

“They can shoot the ball, and they’re pretty physical,” ENMU women’s coach Dan Buzard said of the Lady Reds. “Central hasn’t shot the ball well yet. But both teams are well-coached.”

The Zias erased a double-figure deficit to pull even with Emporia 48-48 with about 13 minutes left before the Lady Hornets pulled away.

“We played pretty well on Saturday,” Buzard said. “If we can bring that kind of intensity, I think we’re going to be OK. We’ve just got to keep it going for a whole game.”