By Dave Wagner
PORTALES — Technically, the Eastern New Mexico University men’s basketball team has one Lone Star Conference crossover game remaining before beginning its South Division schedule next week.
But as far as coach Shawn Scanlan is concerned, the Greyhounds essentially start defense of their division crown tonight when they entertain defending North co-champion Tarleton State in a 7:30 p.m. matchup at Greyhound Arena. Women’s teams meet in the first half of the twin bill at 5:30 p.m.
While the ENMU men (10-4) had their eight-game winning streak snapped in a last-second loss at Southwestern Oklahoma on Saturday, Tarleton (11-2) has won five straight and moved all the way from No. 10 to No. 3 in this week’s NCAA Division II rankings.
“On paper they’re extremely good,” ENMU men’s coach Shawn Scanlan said of the Texans, “and they’ve played to that level.
“We’re treating this like a South Division game. We need to be able to show we can compete for 40 minutes.”
Tarleton graduated two strong front-line players off last year’s team in forwards Danny Jones and Vincent Bridgewater, but returns some solid backcourt performers.
Coach Lonn Reisman said the Texans also added several quality recruits, led by 6-2 senior guard Tim Burnett, a transfer from Division I North Carolina-Wilmington.
Reisman said his team is used to getting opponents’ best shots and expects to be tested at ENMU and, on Saturday, at West Texas A&M (9-4).
“It’s always a tough roadtrip out here,” he said. “It looks like Eastern has an outstanding team and West Texas has an outstanding team.
“It’s good for us to get on the road and play great competition before we get into North Division play. Eastern’s the defending South Division champions, and I know they’re very good. It looks like they’re playing really, really well and they’re going to challenge again in the South.”
Scanlan said that while TSU may not be quite as strong inside as a year ago, the Texans are still athletic enough and have used a solid perimeter game to keep teams honest.
“What they’ve been able to do is have enough perimeter pressure (offensively) so that teams can’t help off on their interior players,” he said. “Over the course of the last three years, Tarleton has been at least one of the two teams to beat (in the LSC), and they’re a good team again this year.”
Scanlan said Clovis junior Irshaun Pinckney, who started the team’s first nine games but has been coming off the bench since then, is nursing a right ankle injury from the Southwestern game that limited him to just nine minutes against the Bulldogs.
“I think he’s going to be OK,” Scanlan said, “but we still have to play it day-to-day.”
What: Tarleton State (11-2) vs. ENMU (10-4) in a Lone Star Conference crossover game
When: 7:30 p.m. today
Where: Greyhound Arena
Radio: KSEL-FM 95.3
Notes: Tarleton went 29-4 last season, and shared the North Division title with eventual NCAA Division II champion Northeastern State at 11-1. … The Texans have won their last 12 games against ENMU dating to a 77-62 Greyhounds’ win in Portales on Feb. 6, 1997. Several of those games were close — six were decided by six points or less or in overtime, including a 67-65 verdict at Stephenville, Texas, and a 64-58 decision in the LSC tournament semifinals at Greyhound Arena last season. … Texans coach Lonn Reisman earned his 300th victory at Tarleton earlier this season and is 305-151 in 15-plus years at the school. … Two of TSU’s top players from a year ago, Fs Vincent Bridgewater and Danny Jones, are currently playing pro ball — Bridgewater in the United States Basketball League with the Oklahoma Storm, where he was the league’s top draft choice, and Jones in Switzerland. … While ENMU is 5-1 in LSC crossovers against the North, Tarleton has gone 4-1 against the South, losing at home by a point to Midwestern State. … TSU is paced by 6-2 senior G Tim Burnett (17.6 ppg, 55 assists), 6-2 senior G Brandon Lee (17.1 ppg) and 6-6 junior F/C David Stephens (12.3 ppg). Burnett is a transfer from Division I North Carolina-Wilmington, while Lee is a returnee who played junior college ball for current ENMU assistant Mark Murdoch at Eastfield (Texas).
Quotable: “We’re kind of young right now. I have to admit I’m kind of surprised we’ve jelled as quickly as we have.” — TSU men’s coach Lonn Reisman.
What: Tarleton State (7-6) at ENMU (6-8) in a Lone Star Conference crossover game
When: 5:30 p.m. today
Where: Greyhound Arena
Radio: KSEL-AM 1450
Notes: Both ENMU and the TexAnns stand 3-3 in crossovers against the other division. … Even after losing at West Texas A&M 80-73 on Tuesday, the Zias have gone 5-3 on the road this season. They are 1-3 at home and 0-2 on neutral courts. … Ronnie Hearn, the women’s coach for 21 seasons at Cisco (Texas) JC, has taken over the TSU program this season. He replaced Claude Cummings, who led the TexAnns to a four-year record of 40-64. … Although Tarleton averages nearly 70 points a game, only 6-0 junior F TeNesiah Lamb is scoring in double figures (10.2). Eight others, though, are netting at least five a game. … Lamb, a transfer from McClennan JC, also leads the team in rebounding (4.9). … Through 13 games, nine players have started for TSU and nine different players have led the team in scoring. Only Lamb and 5-6 junior G LaTonia Gilbert have started every game. … The TexAnns are 1-4 in games decided by four points or less.
Quotable: “As far as our effort and intensity, I thought we got after it pretty good. That’s as tough a place to play as anywhere, but if you don’t do the little things it’ll be hard to beat them.” — ENMU women’s coach Dan Buzard, pointing to 30 Zias turnovers and WT’s 19 offensive rebounds as key reasons for Tuesday’s loss to the Lady Buffs at the WT Event Center.