Oklahoma Panhandle State’s Juan Carson fouls Eastern New Mexico University’s Mikal Monette on a drive to the basket during the first half of Saturday’s game at Greyhound Arena in Portales. (CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By Kevin Wilson: Freedom Newspapers
PORTALES — The Greyhounds had little time to prepare for Oklahoma Panhandle State’s zone defense. But Eastern New Mexico University had no plans whatsoever to be the Aggies’ first win of the season.
The host Greyhounds broke open a close game with a 24-5 run that bridged the first and second half and made plays when they needed to down the stretch to coast to a 69-53 victory Saturday night at Greyhound Arena.
Eastern (4-4) trailed only once all night and held a double-digit lead for the final 13 minutes of the contest.
“I thought we had control the whole game,” said Mikal Monette, who had a career high 18 points on 6-of-6 shooting to lead the Greyhounds. “Tonight, we had a lead large enough to overcome the mistakes we made.”
The only major mistake ENMU coach Shawn Scanlan could identify was a 20-17 lead in turnovers, but he felt the team took more advantage of OPSU’s turnovers than vice versa and did pretty much everything else well.
“I think the turnover statistic is probably the only negative of tonight,” Scanlan said. “We were careless at times — that’s got to be something we change. Virtually everything else we tried to accomplish we did accomplish.”
Trailing 22-17 with six minutes left in the first half, a Monette layup keyed a 17-3 run to close the half.
Scanlan thought the run to end the first half and a 7-2 burst after halftime were products of attacking the Aggies zone, which admittedly gave the Hounds trouble early.
“We couldn’t adjust to their zone in practice, so what we had to have was in-game experience,” Scanlan said. “As the game wore on, I think we got more comfortable.”
After the Greyhounds opened up a 41-27 lead, the Aggies responded with three-straight layups off of steals. After Monette hit a pair of free throws to close the run, OPSU never got within single digits.
“Some of those (turnovers) were kind of bad mistakes when we were trying skip passes and didn’t see the defense on the weak side,” Monette said. “When we did make a mistake, it was (because we were) aggressive.”
The Greyhounds finally put the Aggies away when Monette hit a 3-pointer with 4:49 to play, then fed Ira Cross on the next possession for a three-point play to make the score 60-43.
Cross had a double-double for Eastern with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Aggies coach Curt Conner was not immediately available for comment after the game.