By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
With the kind of effort they put forth in Wednesday’s 75-69 loss to visiting Tarleton State, Eastern New Mexico University senior guard Jolen Montoya figures the Greyhounds would win most games.
ENMU has been playing better of late and hopes to keep the higher level of play going when it hosts Midwestern State in a Lone Star Conference South Division game at 7 p.m. today at Greyhound Arena. Women’s teams meet in the 5 p.m. opener.
“We have to come out every game with that same effort and intensity,” said Montoya, who had one of his better outings of the season against division-leading Tarleton (15-4, 4-0 South) with 17 points and five assists. “We’ve been playing pretty good. We just can’t dig holes for ourselves like we did at Abilene Christian.”
The Hounds (7-11, 1-2), who had won three in a row before dropping their last two, fell behind 17-6 in the first four minutes at Abilene Christian last Saturday and eventually lost 82-73. Now, though, they’re in position to make a move in the South with five of their next seven games at home.
“We came out and fought,” Montoya said of Wednesday’s loss. “I guess we just couldn’t maintain it for the whole 40 minutes. But we proved we can play with a team of their stature.”
Montoya, one of only two returning players from last year’s team, struggled with his shot early in the season but has since started to find his stroke. He’s averaged 15.5 points over the last four games, shooting nearly 50 percent from the field (21-of-43) and hitting 12-of-23 from 3-point range.
“And I only had one turnover (against Tarleton),” he said. “I’ve been pretty consistent lately, and hopefully I can keep it going.”
Midwestern State (11-8, 0-4) has dug itself a bit of a hole in the division race, but ENMU men’s coach Shawn Scanlan said no one should be fooled.
“They’ve got one really good inside player (junior post Eric Dawson),” Scanlan said. “They’ve struggled, but their schedule to start the South has been really tough. They’re 0-4, but that’s certainly not indicative of their team.”
Scanlan said the Hounds played hard against Tarleton, but not as efficiently as he would like.
“They’re going to be loaded for bear,” he said of the . “We’re playing at home, and we’ve got to take advantage of it.”
ENMU’s women are looking to bounce back from a 67-47 loss to Tarleton on Wednesday. The Zias (8-10, 0-4) need a win to move past Midwestern (7-11, 1-4) and into sixth place in the eight-team division.
Eastern has lost three in a row in South play after beating East Central and Southeastern Oklahoma in their final two LSC crossover contests to briefly jump back over .500. The Zias’ four division losses have been by an average of more than 22 points.
“They’re a pretty solid basketball team,” ENMU women’s coach Dan Buzard said of Midwestern, which lost at WT 72-46 on Wednesday. “They play hard defense and run a good motion offense.
“We’re going to have to play better on offense than we did (against Tarleton). I think we’re due for a good game.”