By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
The Eastern New Mexico University men’s basketball team will travel nearly 800 miles to Las Vegas, Nev., this weekend to face two teams from Missouri in the NCAA Division II High Desert Shootout.
The ENMU women, meantime, have an even longer trip. The Zias (6-2) play back-to-back games on Monday and Tuesday nights at Alaska-Anchorage (4-2).
It’s the final action for both the Greyhounds and Zias until Dec. 30.
The Greyhounds (4-4) have a tough task ahead of them, facing nationally 14th-ranked Central Missouri State (8-1) tonight and Drury (6-2) on Saturday night.
ENMU men’s coach Shawn Scanlan said Central Missouri, coming off an impressive road win over Washburn last weekend in its Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Conference opener, has been building a solid program under former University of Missouri standout Kim Anderson over the past few years.
“Kim’s done a good job,” Scanlan said. “They got into the (Division II) playoff hunt a year ago, and they should be in contention again.
“Any win at Washburn is tough. That was a good win for them.”
Except for a disastrous weekend trip to Oklahoma earlier this month in which ENMU scored only 85 points in two games, the Hounds have been competitive. Scanlan said there is still room for improvement.
“We’re looking at trying to figure out how we have to play,” he said. “We haven’t hit our stride yet. We’re still trying to establish an identity.”
The Zias, meantime, have been injury-plagued despite their relatively fast start. However, they should regain the services in Alaska of junior guard Missy Kirkland, who missed last week’s games against Texas A&M-Commerce and St. Edward’s with a sprained ankle.
“Missy practiced (Tuesday) and looked OK,” Zias coach Dan Buzard said. “I think by week’s end she should be ready to go.
“These are games where we need to get better. Hopefully, we’ll be able to meld a little and become a little more consistent.”
The Zias let a 10-point, second-half lead slip away in their most recent outing, losing to St. Ed’s 60-52 on Saturday at Greyhound Arena.
“I knew they were going to get after us,” Buzard said of the Hilltoppers. “They were physical, and that’s something we’ll have to learn to deal with.”
All Times MST
ENMU (4-4) vs. Central Missouri State (8-1), 7 p.m.
On the Net: www.enmu.edu/athletics tonight; www.radiospringfield.com on Saturday.
Notes: This is ENMU’s second consecutive appearance in the NCAA Division II men’s High Desert Classic at McDermott Physical Education Center, University of Nevada-Las Vegas. Last year, the Hounds lost to Pittsburg State 83-63 but waxed St. Mary’s 79-41. … Central Missouri, a member of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association, dropped from ninth to 14th in this week’s Division II national rankings after a two-point loss at St. Edward’s. However, the Warrensburg, Mo.-based Mules bounced back to win at Washburn 76-68 in their MIAA opener on Saturday. The Hounds lost to Washburn 90-85 on a neutral floor at Hays, Kan., in late November. … Senior G Michael Hicks leads four CMSU players averaging in double figures (16.8), and is 24-for-64 from 3-point land.
ENMU vs. Drury (6-2), 7:45 p.m., McDermott Physical Education Center, University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
Drury, based in Springfield, Mo., switched from the Heartland Conference to the Great Lakes Valley Conference this year. The Panthers currently share the league’s West Division lead at 3-1 after edging Southern Illinois-Edwardsville 66-63 at home on Saturday. … Sophomore F Collins Harris leads Drury in scoring (17.6 ppg) while shooting 50 percent from the field (57-of-114).
ENMU (6-2) at Alaska-Anchorage (4-2), 5:30 p.m. Monday and Tuesday.
On the Net: www.goseawolves.com (click on “live stats” for updates).
Notes: The Zias have made two previous trips to Alaska, going a combined 6-2. They split two games with Alaska-Fairbanks and swept two from Anchorage in the 1992-93 season, then split with Anchorage and swept Fairbanks two years later. … The Seawolves play their first 11 games at home before traveling to Alaska-Fairbanks for a Great Northwest Athletic Conference game on Jan. 7. Their first game on the mainland is Jan. 12 against league foe Central Washington. … The Seawolves’ losses were to Division I teams Central Connecticut State and Furman in the Great Alaska Shootout in Anchorage Nov. 22-23. They have two wins over both San Diego Christian and Colorado Christian, and hosted University of the District of Columbia on Thursday. … Rebecca Kielpinski, a 6-2 freshman C from Mandan, N.D., leads Anchorage in scoring (18.2) and rebounding (9.8). She is shooting 60 percent from the field and 79 percent from the free throw line. … Other than two players from Anchorage, the Seawolves’ roster includes one player from Israel and one from each of eight states on the mainland.