Hounds set for rematch with NW Missouri

Junior forward Jamaal Hunnicutt and the Eastern New Mexico University Greyhounds face Northwest Missouri State on Saturday in the South Central Region tournament at Stephenville, Texas. CNJ staff file photo

By Dave Wagner

It took a couple of days, but Eastern New Mexico University men’s basketball coach Shawn Scanlan thinks the Greyhounds have recovered mentally from their disappointing first-round loss at home to Southwestern Oklahoma in last week’s Lone Star Conference tournament.

The Hounds (20-8) hope to turn the unwanted down time into a plus as they prepare to face third-seeded Northwest Missouri State in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division II South Central Region tournament at 11 a.m. (MST) on Saturday in Stephenville, Texas.

“We’ve had a good week of practice,” Scanlan said. “This is a really special moment for us. We’ve worked awfully hard, and to play on the grandest stage at our level is really special. I’m excited about the prospects of this weekend and the challenges ahead.

“I think we’ve grown to understand what it takes to win, and I think we believe in ourselves. This is as good a definition of ‘team’ as I’ve ever been around. It’s been a pleasure and a joy to watch them come together.”

The teams met earlier this season, with the Bearcats (26-4) winning a competitive game 90-82 in the finals of their own tournament in November at Maryville, Mo.

Veteran NWMSU coach Steve Tappmeyer said his squad had a difficult time with Eastern, perhaps tougher than expected in a venue where they are usually dominant.

“We played them on our floor, way away from their home, with our fans, and they gave us a tough game,” said Tappmeyer, in his 16th season at the helm. “We know they’re a really good opponent, and it’ll be a hard-fought game.”

Scanlan said the Hounds’ pre-LSC schedule, including the trip to Maryville, stands them in good stead as they prepare for their first regional tournament appearance since 1993.

“We played an awfully difficult schedule early, including a game against New Mexico State on the road and the tournament at Northwest Missouri,” he said. “They play similar to us — they run if given the opportunity, but they can play in the halfcourt.

“I think it’ll be a really good matchup. We just didn’t have enough good plays down the stretch (in the first meeting).”

Junior forward Jamaal Hunnicutt said the Hounds are glad to get another chance after last week’s 61-52 loss against Southwestern.

“We really didn’t know (if the team would make the playoffs),” said the 6-foot-5 Hunnicutt, who averages 12.9 points and leads ENMU in rebounding, steals and blocked shots. “We needed a lot of teams to fall out of the picture, but we’re really happy to be playing.

“We were able to get some practice and try to get everybody back on the same page. Hopefully, we’ll play hard and play together.”

NWMSU, ranked 15th in NCAA Division II, won its first 13 games and was 19-1 at one point. Tappmeyer said the Bearcats, led by senior guard Kelvin Parker, played well in winning the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association tournament last weekend.

“He’s been our leader,” Tappmeyer said of Parker. “He’s our most experienced player and has gotten a lot of awards. But I don’t think there’s a big gap between him and a lot of our other players.”

What/when/where: ENMU (20-8) vs. Northwest Missouri State (26-4), 11 a.m. (MST) Saturday, in quarterfinal round of South Central Region tournament at Stephenville, Texas.
Radio: KSEL-FM 95.3.
Notes: Three teams from both the Lone Star Conference and Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association and two teams from the Heartland Conference make up the regional tournament field. … Semifinals are scheduled for Sunday, with the ENMU-Northwest winner facing either seventh-seeded St. Mary’s (19-10) or second-seeded Washburn (26-4) in the early contest at 5 p.m. (MST). The championship game is at 6 p.m. (MST) Tuesday, with the winner advancing to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight March 24-27 at Bakersfield, Calif. … LSC North Division champion and tournament host Tarleton State (27-3) finished No. 2 in the Division II national Top 25, trailing only Metropolitan State. Meantime, Washburn (11th), NWMSU (15th) and Emporia (22nd) represented the MIAA in the poll. … NWMSU, which won its first 13 games this season en route to a 19-1 start, defeated the Greyhounds 90-82 in late November in the finals of the Ryland Milner Classic on the Bearcats’ home floor in Maryville, Mo. The Hounds led by four points early in the second half and were within two with less than two minutes left. … Bearcats coach Steve Tappmeyer earned his 300th win at the school late in the regular season. His record at Northwest is 304-156 (.661) over 16 campaigns. … NWMSU outscores its opponents by just over 10 points a game, and is led by 5-11 senior G Kelvin Parker (17.7) and 6-8 sophomore F Austin Meyer (11.8). Also, 6-0 junior G Sky Wilson and 6-5, 255-pound F Byron Jackson average just under double figures, with Jackson leading the team in rebounding (8.0). … The Bearcats have gone to the regionals six times in seven years. They’ve won at least 20 games for five straight years, making the regional tournament each time, advancing to the Elite Eight in 2002. … During the regular season, Northwest tied for second in the MIAA with regional qualifier Emporia State (14-4), one game behind Washburn. But the Bearcats, who lost both regular-season meetings with Washburn, rallied from 11 points down midway through the second half to beat the Ichabods 78-71 in Sunday’s conference tournament final at Kansas City, Mo.
Quotable: “We feel pretty fortunate that things fell into place like they did. A lot of guys came in and fit in pretty quickly.” — NWMSU coach Steve Tappmeyer, on having to replace four starters from last year’s squad.

NCAA Division II Tournament
All Times MST
South Central Region
At Stephenville, Texas
First round
Northwest Missouri State (26-4) vs. Eastern New Mexico (20-8), 11 a.m.
St. Mary’s, Texas (19-10) vs. Washburn (26-4), 2:30 p.m.
Drury (22-7) vs. Emporia State (22-6), 6 p.m.
Texas A&M-Kingsville (19-10) at Tarleton State (27-3), 8:30 p.m.
Northwest Missouri State-Eastern New Mexico winner vs. St. Mary’s-Washburn winner, 4 p.m.
Drury-Emporia State winner vs. Texas A&M-Kingsville—Tarleton State winner, 6:30 p.m.
At Springfield, Mo.
First round
Emporia State (24-4) vs. West Texas A&M (24-5), noon
Northeastern State (23-7) vs. Angelo State (26-4), 2 p.m.
Missouri Western State (21-8) at Drury (31-1), 5 p.m.
Northwest Missouri State (24-6) vs. Washburn (25-4), 7 p.m.
Emporia State-West Texas A&M winner vs. Northeastern State-Angelo State winner, 5 p.m.
Missouri Western-Drury winner vs. Northwest Missouri State-Washburn winner, 7 p.m.
Semifinal winners, 6 p.m.