CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo ENMU junior guard Stefan Mirabal drives to the basket during the first half of Saturday’s Lone Star Conference men’s crossover game against Northeastern State at Greyhound Arena.
PORTALES — Sometimes teams play like they practice; sometimes not.
For Eastern New Mexico University’s men on Saturday, a good week of practice didn’t lead to the desired result in the game. The Greyhounds struggled to shoot 30 percent from the floor, were outrebounded 44-34 and absorbed a 79-57 Lone Star Conference men’s crossover shellacking from Northeastern State at Greyhound Arena.
ENMU (3-6), which lost its fourth in a row, hung around for a half despite its scoring problems. When that continued after the break, though, the RiverHawks (5-5) pulled away and made short work of it.
Coach Andrew Helton was thoroughly disappointed with the outing.
“We stunk,” he said. “We practiced really well this week, and you hope to play like you practice.
“Honestly, I think we made just two perimeter jump shots in the first 30 minutes of the game. Whatever we got was inside, but eventually you have to knock down some jumpers.”
The RiverHawks also struggled through the first half, leading 33-28 at the break. Although they probably should have had a bigger margin, they eventually came alive and turned the game into a runaway with a 16-2 burst after ENMU pulled to 35-33 early in the second half.
“I thought our energy level was good in practice (during the week),” Helton said. “It was terrible in the second half. But some of that falls on your ability to make jumpers.”
Northeastern, which won for the first time in five road outings, shot 57 percent in the second half (17-of-30), including 7-of-15 from 3-point range.
“I thought our defense was solid all night,” NSU coach Larry Gipson said. “In the second half we started making some shots, but I think our defense caused them some problems.”
Guard Dominique Gaines led four RiverHawks in double figures with 16 points, while forward Jermaine Bransford added 15 points and nine rebounds.
“I’m pleased with this win,” said Gipson, who like Helton is a native of Marion, Ohio. “Nobody else has come in here and beaten Eastern like that. I think Eastern has a good basketball team, and Andrew will get them going.”
ENMU got 14 points and nine rebounds from junior forward Max Carrier, 10 points and nine boards from senior forward Tyler Jefferson and 10 points off the bench from junior forward Aaron Edwards.
The Hounds made only 18-of-60 shots for the game, including 4-of-22 on 3-pointers. They stayed close for as long as they did by converting 17-of-20 free throws.
“We’ve got to find somebody who can step up and make shots for us,” Helton said.
ENMU plays its final game before the break on Monday with an 8 p.m. LSC crossover against Central Oklahoma at Greyhound Arena.