Eastern New Mexico University senior Mikal Monette drives the lane during the first half of Saturday’s game at Greyhound Arena. Monette finished with six points in an 87-88 loss to Central Oklahoma. (CNJ staff photo: Rick White)
By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
PORTALES — Down by 17 points and looking dead in the water, Eastern New Mexico University’s men put together a spirited rally to take the lead with less than eight minutes left Saturday.
Just as quickly, though, Central Oklahoma regained control with baskets on three consecutive possessions and the Bronchos went on to claim an 87-78 win in a Lone Star Conference crossover matchup at Greyhound Arena.
The Bronchos (8-4) shot 77 percent in the second half (20-of-26) and finished off the game on a 24-14 surge.
The Greyhounds (5-8) had taken a 64-63 lead on two free throws by senior Mikal Monette with 7:53 left, ending a 23-5 ENMU run over six minutes.
Central Oklahoma got 25 points and six rebounds off the bench from 6-foot-9 junior Jason Arbet and 23 points from senior guard Sam Belt. The two combined to go 19-for-25 from the field.
“For one reason or another we haven’t played well on the road this year,” Bronchos coach Terry Evans said. “But we played about as well as we have all year.”
Senior guard Stephen Wilson scored a season-best 22 points and senior guard Tristan Largent added 21 for the Hounds, who lost their third in a row — all at home. Wilson also notched five assists.
They couldn’t make enough plays with the game on the line late to pull it out.
“We struggled to do things that good basketball teams do,” ENMU coach Shawn Scanlan said. “We haven’t found enough players who can play consistently.
“We didn’t have as many guys on the same page as they did today. I would say we’re still our own worst enemy at this point.
The Bronchos erased a 25-21 deficit with a 25-4 surge that carried into the second half and gave them a 46-29 lead with less than 18 minutes left.
It was still a 17-point margin when Wilson’s 3-pointer made it 58-44 with 13:06 to go and kicked off the Hounds’ remarkable turnaround. Junior Justin Redman-Trotter followed with consecutive 3-pointers and two assists in a span of less than three minutes to bring the Hounds close.
Another reserve, 6-7 sophomore Terry Tucker, hit a pair of shots as the Bronchos scored on three consecutive trips after Monette’s free throws had given ENMU its short-lived lead. Wilson pulled the Hounds to 69-66 with two free throws, but the Bronchos scored the next six points and ENMU never got closer than four down the stretch.
“Our guys dropped their intensity level (with the big lead),” Evans said. “And I think (Scanlan) got them back in the game. But if we’re going to be a good team, we’ve got to be more consistent.”
Scanlan said he thinks it’ll take time for his squad to smooth out the rough edges.
“We’re a team that’s still a ways away,” he said. “What we’ve gotten ourselves into can’t be corrected overnight.”