By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers
PORTALES — Eastern New Mexico University men’s basketball coach Shawn Scanlan knew things might be tough Thursday night, and he was right.
In addition to having three players sidelined by injury, the Greyhounds ran into a hot-shooting Lubbock Christian squad that never let ENMU get going in rolling to a 96-65 victory at Greyhound Arena.
Senior guards Jared Fears (29 points) and Brandon Jones (24) combined to shoot 17-of-24 from the field for the Chaparrals (5-2), who are ranked 12th in NAIA. The Chaps shot 65 percent for the game and hit 11-of-19 from 3-point range.
Guards Reggie Wallace (ankle) and Jamal Washington (staph infection) were unable to play for ENMU, and earlier this week the Hounds lost junior forward Mikal Monette for the season when he suffered an ACL injury in practice.
That said, Scanlan found nothing encouraging about his team’s performance, and said it was a carryover from lackluster preseason outings in an exhibition at New Mexico and a scrimmage at Hobbs against Sul Ross State.
“We’ve got issues right now,” he said. “We were a product tonight of our bad habits.
“We’re lacking the intangible qualities right now that would help players to realize what they’re capable of.”
EMMU led 2-0 and tied the game 4-4 before the Chaps went on an 11-0 run that featured two 3-pointers by Jones and a 3-point play by forward James Horner.
Jones scored 18 first-half points on 4-of-5 shooting — all from 3-point range, with his only miss coming with just over a minute left — and 6-of-6 free throws as LCU built a 48-30 cushion.
Chaps coach John Copeland called a timeout after the Hounds tallied the first five points of the second half. But Fears capped a 7-0 LCU run with a 3-pointer to push the spread to 22 points with 15 minutes left.
The Hounds never got closer than 18, and trailed by at least 20 points over the final 11 minutes.
While Scanlan was disappointed with his team’s overall effort, Copeland said the Hounds actually made the Chaps work hard.
“We shot the ball well,” he said. “Eastern made us execute. Brandon just got off (early) and had a really good game.
“This was Eastern’s first game and our seventh; we’ve been through some things they haven’t had yet. They’re going to be a lot better team than what they showed tonight.”
Junior guard Eric Sheets came off the bench to get 16 points for LCU, all but three coming in the second half.
Senior guard Irshaun Pinckney shot 4-of-7 and finished with a team-leading 16 points for the Hounds. Senior forward Jamaal Hunnicutt, who had a team-high seven rebounds, and junior guard Jolen Montoya each tallied 12 points.
Scanlan said Washington is likely to be out a while, but noted that Wallace has at least a slim chance of playing when the team takes on Adams State in a 7 p.m. game on Saturday at Alamosa, Colo.