ENMU builds early lead, notches first Lone Star Conference win

Freedom New Mexico: Kevin Wilson ENMU senior guard Stefan Mirabal puts up a shot in the lane during the second half of Thursday night’s Lone Star Conference men’s game against Angelo State at Rock Staubus Gym in Clovis. Mirabal had seven points in ENMU’s 71-62 win.

Kevin Wilson

It’s not really a home contest, but Eastern New Mexico University’s men were happy to take a game 20 miles away at Clovis High’s Rock Staubus Gym.

And it wasn’t a full game, but 10 good minutes was just enough for the Hounds to get their first Lone Star Conference win.

It was during that first 10:08 that the Greyhounds controlled the tempo, limited the Angelo State offense and pretty much dominated for a 29-7 lead that paved the way for a 71-62 victory Thursday night over Angelo State in the neutral-site “ENMU at The Rock” event.

Senior guard Reggie Nelson scored a game-high 20 points, and senior center Curtis Wilkinson added 17 to give the Greyhounds (8-3, 1-2 LSC) the win in a battle of two teams that entered Thursday winless in LSC play.

“We played well for about 10 minutes tonight, and we played well for a big part of the second half,” ENMU coach Andrew Helton said. “We just didn’t finish either half well.”

The Rams (6-5, 0-3) rallied late, and cut their deficit to six on a banked 3-pointer by Joey Lenox with 1:43 to play. But Nelson went 6-of-6 at the line from that point on to seal the win.

“It feels good; I couldn’t believe we could have been 0-3,” said Nelson, who went 6-of-8 from the field to complement the interior efforts of Wilkinson, who returned from a three-game personal absence to also add five rebounds and a pair of blocks that jump-started the Rock Staubus crowd.

“They did a good job of guarding us,” Angelo State coach Fred Rike said. “Curtis Wilkinson, I thought, was great tonight. He’s really good defensively, and he was a load in the paint tonight.”

Wilkinson scored eight consecutive points — six of them on a pair of 3-point plays — to kick-start a 15-0 run that gave ENMU a 24-5 lead. During that opening stretch, the Rams could do little except kick and penetrate against a collapsing Hounds defense, and they were doomed by 7-of-23 shooting from beyond the arc — many of them open shots by college standards.

“We tried to stop their penetration,” Nelson said. “We knew a lot of their offense is based on isolation, so it was just a matter of playing against that.”

The Rams rallied to within single digits late in the first half, but Devone Davis hit a pair of 3-pointers to make it 39-29 at the half. The Greyhounds got 3-pointers from Tralyn Harden and Stefan Mirabal in an 8-2 run to open the second half.

In contrast to the Rams’ troubles, ENMU hit 6-of-12 from long distance.

“The 12 we shot were wide open,” Helton said. “When you take good shots, you’re going to hit them, (though I’ll concede ASU) did miss some open looks.”

Hanif Nixon-Hughes went 8-of-12 from the field to lead three Rams in double figures with 19 points.

Neither team will go too far for its next battle. The Hounds return to Greyhound Arena for a 7:30 p.m. matchup against Abilene Christian on Saturday, then visit Division I Long Beach State on Monday, while the Rams play at West Texas A&M on Saturday.