CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson Lubbock Christian guard Tyler Kennedy draws an offensive foul of Eastern New Mexico’s Tyler Jefferson in the first half of Saturday’s non-conference game at Greyhound Arena. Jefferson had 13 points and seven rebounds in the Greyhounds’ 75-72 win.
PORTALES — After a couple of disappointing performances last week in Colorado, including one in a victory, Eastern New Mexico University men’s basketball coach Andrew Helton decided it was time to shake things up a bit.
Guards Tralyn Harden and Jordan Romero were inserted into the lineup Saturday and the Greyhounds rode solid backcourt play to a 75-72 win over previously unbeaten Lubbock Christian at Greyhound Arena.
Junior guard Stefan Mirabal led a balanced attack with 18 points, including four 3-pointers, as the Hounds (3-2) snapped a two-game losing streak. Seven players, including Harden and Romero (nine apiece), scored at least eight points for ENMU.
“It’s about time I finally got in a groove, especially on defense,” said Harden, a junior from Itasca, Texas, who dropped three 3-pointers in 33 minutes. “We had some turnovers (late) that helped them, but we finished the game (well).”
Senior forward Tyler Jefferson had a season-best 13 points to go with seven rebounds for ENMU, while 6-foot-7 junior Aaron Edwards came off the bench for 10 points.
“I thought Victor (Reid, eight points) and Aaron gave us good minutes off the bench,” Helton said.
Romero, a 6-foot-1 sophomore from St. Michael’s in Santa Fe, made his first collegiate start and came relatively close to a triple-double with seven rebounds and six assists in 33 minutes. He also contributed four steals and a blocked shot.
The Hounds probably won the game on the defensive end, holding the Chaparrals (5-1) to 44 percent shooting, including 6-of-19 from 3-point range. LCU came in having shot better than 50 percent in each of its previous outings.
Meantime, ENMU finished at 48 percent (26-of-54) and went 12-of-26 from 3-point range.
“For whatever reason, we didn’t play well the first half,” Chaps coach John Copeland said. “We missed too many easy shots, but give Eastern credit. They made shots.”
The Hounds went on a 10-0 run early for an 18-7 lead, watched LCU rally back with the next 13 points, then edged their way into a 41-38 lead at halftime.
Lubbock Christian trailed the entire second half until reserve Clay Roberts hit a 2-point basket and a 3-pointer for a 67-66 lead with five minutes left. The Chaps made only one field goal after that, though, and ENMU took the lead for good at 70-68 on two free throws by senior forward Tyler Jefferson with 2:35 to go.
Freshman guard Kyle Lantz made two free throws with three seconds left for a three-point lead, and Read’s desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer was well off the mark.
“We just didn’t do anything good enough for long enough,” Copeland said. “It was our worst shooting of the season.”
ENMU played without 6-7 junior forward Max Carrier, who was sitting out a one-game suspension for a team violation, Helton said. The Chaps, meantime, were without starting guard Al Duvall (strained knee) and top sub Russ Permenter (ankle injury).
“I could not be any prouder,” Helton said. “I thought our kids came out early and battled. This Lubbock Christian team is a good team.
“We shot the ball well tonight, which without Max we needed to do.”