PORTALES — If the Eastern New Mexico University men’s basketball team can make it through one more game, the Greyhounds should get some much-needed rest.
Playing for the sixth time in nine days on Wednesday, including an exhibition last week, the Hounds put all five starters in double figures and held off Angelo State 76-67 in the Lone Star Conference opener for both teams at Greyhound Arena.
ENMU (4-3) travels to Abilene Christian on Saturday, then won’t play again for another 11 days while taking semester finals.
ACU opened LSC play on Wednesday by edging previously unbeaten West Texas A&M 59-58 on the road, setting up an interesting early-season matchup.
Junior guard Kyle Lantz scored a career-best 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting for the Hounds, including back-to-back 3-pointers which stretched a two-point lead to eight early in the second half.
“He played good,” Hounds coach Andrew Helton said of Lantz. “That’s as well as he’s played. He and Jordan Awoye were big for us tonight.”
Junior guard Rafael Love added 17 points, junior forward Dennis Hardwell had 13 points and 10 rebounds, Awoye scored 12 and junior guard Rodney Blackmon finished with 11 points — all of his coming in the second half.
“I had a lot of layups, but I was feeling it,” said Lantz, whose previous high was 15 points at Tarleton State late last season. “We just have to stay rested right now. If we can get the game Saturday, we’ll have a good break before the next game.”
The Hounds finished with a season-low five points off the bench.
“Any win in this league, you take it and run with it,” Helton said. “Angelo showed a lot coming back the way they did.”
Angelo struggled early, missing 16 of its first 19 shots and falling behind 24-9 midway through the opening half, but the Rams put together a 15-0 run and led 27-26 on Dakota Rawls’ jumper with 3:21 left before the break.
“They started hitting some shots, and it was back-and-forth,” said Lantz, who is a graduate of Manzano High School in Albuquerque. “It was fairly even the whole game. We just made a few more plays at the end.”
The Rams took a brief lead 35-34 on Antonio Dye’s 3-pointer with 17 minutes remaining, but Hardwell’s short banker put ENMU back in front for good except for a brief tie with about 10 minutes left.
“The start of the game was a disaster for us,” ASU coach Fred Rike said. “We weren’t shooting the ball well and not finishing inside.”
Freshman guard Jovan Austin took game honors with 20 points off the bench for the Rams. Dye finished with 16 while junior guard/forward Chris Talkington, averaging 18 coming in, was limited to 12 points and 19 minutes, in part because of foul trouble.
The Rams return home on Saturday to face WT (6-1), which was ranked 18th in NCAA Division II.
“There’s a lot of parity in the Lone Star Conference,” Rike said. “Here were two teams that were picked toward the bottom (Angelo eighth, ENMU 10th), but I think Eastern is better than that.”