Mikal Monette spins toward the basket for a shot during Thursday’s Lone Star Conference crossover game against East Central. (Freedom Newspapers: Kevin Wilson)
By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
PORTALES — Whatever had been ailing the Eastern New Mexico University men’s basketball team during a five-game losing streak certainly wasn’t in evidence Thursday night.
Clicking on all cylinders from start to finish, the Greyhounds destroyed East Central 98-51 in a Lone Star Conference crossover game at Greyhound Arena.
Senior post Mikal Monette matched a career-high set in the team’s previous game with 24 points, and he added a team-high nine rebounds. Unlike Saturday’s 88-69 loss at Central Oklahoma, Monette had a lot of help against the Tigers (10-4), who came to town with a seven-game winning streak.
ENMU (5-9) shot 57 percent from the floor, hit 10-of-15 from 3-point range and 20-of-24 from the free throw line, dominated the glass 39-28 and had easily a season low in turnovers with just seven.
“I thought they played awfully well,” ENMU men’s coach Shawn Scanlan said. “It was a solid win, and everybody played well.
“They’re not a bad team; we just played well tonight. They’ve had quality wins this season, and we were struggling (coming in).”
Point guard Tristan Largent added 18 points and four assists — with no turnovers — for the Hounds, who raced to a 56-31 halftime lead and never looked back.
“We’ve been working extremely hard since last weekend,” Largent said. “Tonight, if someone wasn’t open we didn’t throw the ball to him. We made a lot of hard cuts, and that’s why we got a lot of plays at the basket.”
Monette, who went 9-for-9 from the field at Central, continued his strong play against the Tigers. He did his damage in just 25 minutes.
“It’s a momentum thing,” Monette said. “Once things go bad for the other team, it really puts a lot of pressure on them.”
Monette sat out the 2004-05 season with a knee injury after transferring from the University of New Mexico. The year before, he said he played just 11 games for the Lobos before going down with a season-ending injury.
“Early this season I was getting back in rhythm,” Monette said. “It’s been about two years since I’ve played, and now I’m starting to find my niche.”
The Tigers had three early leads, but ENMU went in front for good 13-11 on two free throws by Monette with 15:23 left in the half. Then senior guard Jolen Montoya stole the Tigers’ inbounds pass and scored, and the rout was on.
All 10 Hounds who saw action in the first half contributed points. Any hopes of an East Central comeback were quickly squashed when the Hounds stretched their lead to 77-39 with 13 1/2 minutes left after a 14-2 run.
“I was as happy about that as anything,” Scanlan said of the strong start to the half. “We came out in the second half and continued to play well.
“This team needed a chance to feel good. Hopefully, this’ll refuel our positive feelings heading into the next games.”
Eastern led 91-46 after Largent banked in a short jumper with 7:23 left, then went 5 1/2 minutes without scoring before adding their final seven points. After a defensive rebound, Scanlan had his team run out the final 25 seconds rather than go for 100.
Largent said the Tigers weren’t as bad as they looked in this one.
“You could tell they were a good team,” he said. “Tonight, it was an attack mode for us. We just put it to them for the whole game.”