By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspaper
PORTALES — It’s hardly desperation time for the Eastern New Mexico University men’s basketball team, but coach Shawn Scanlan would like to see the Greyhounds get on track pretty soon.
After winning back-to-back Lone Star Conference South Division titles, ENMU has battled injuries and a fairly challenging early schedule during a 2-4 start — the losses coming against teams who have combined to go 28-3 so far.
The Hounds play their final home game of 2004 tonight, hosting Oklahoma Panhandle State in a 7 p.m. tipoff at Greyhound Arena.
ENMU’s women, meantime, travel to Austin, Texas, for a Thursday clash with St. Edward’s. Both Eastern squads will be at Tarleton State for LSC crossover games on Saturday night.
While acknowledging the difficulty of the early schedule, Scanlan said it won’t get much easier and added that the Hounds will simply have to pick up their level of play.
“We’ve got to be able to establish a pattern to our play that gives us a chance to win,” he said. “So far, we haven’t been consistent enough on either end of the court. We’ve got to bear down defensively and on the boards.”
ENMU, which has been without senior guard Jamal Washington (staph infection) so far, probably won’t have junior forward Daniel Sherman (ankle) for the second consecutive game. Also, junior guard Billy Austin bruised his tailbone in practice on Monday and was listed by Scanlan as “questionable” for tonight.
Panhandle has struggled under first-year coach Curt Connor, but the Aggies have shown they’re capable with wins over Fort Hays and Missouri Southern, the latter on the road, and several competitive losses.
“They’re much better than they were last year,” Scanlan said. “They’re not scoring a lot of points, but they’re getting points from different places.”
Tarleton State has been the North’s top team for the past two or three seasons, and Scanlan said the Texans are strong again.
“They’ve got more depth than they’ve ever had, especially inside,” he said. “When it’s all said and done, they’re going to be in the middle of the race for the North championship, the Lone Star championship and the regional championship.”
The Zias, meantime, hope to build off home victories over Cameron and Southwestern last weekend.
“I was pleased with the two wins; I thought we beat two good teams,” Klafka said. “It would be really nice to finish off the semester right.”
Neither St. Edward’s (2-7) nor Tarleton (2-4) has had much success so far, but Klafka said both are dangerous, especially at home.
“They’re struggling a little bit, but I think most of their games have been on the road,” he said of St. Ed’s. “They’re unpredictable — one game they were in a man (defense) and another game they sat back in a zone. It seems they gear the game plan to (the opponent).”
After Saturday’s game, Klafka said the Zias won’t return to practice until Dec. 27. Their next game is at home on Jan. 6 against Central Oklahoma.