Defensive switch helps Hounds subdue Aggies
Last updated 11/23/2021 at 5:24pm
PORTALES — In a game of runs, Eastern New Mexico University’s men were having a hard time keeping up with scrappy Oklahoma Panhandle State.
Then first-year Greyhounds coach Brent Owen made a defensive switch, and it paid off royally as ENMU stormed back late to beat the Aggies 85-72 on Monday night at Greyhound Arena.
Trailing by nine points with less than nine minutes remaining, the Hounds decided to go to a matchup zone defense. It seemed to befuddle Panhandle, and put a halt to the Aggies’ free-flowing offense.
The Hounds went on a 33-9 run over an 8 1/2-minute span to lead by 15 in the final seconds.
“It’s kind of a version of the Syracuse zone (under coach Jim Boeheim),” Owen said. “(Assistant) coach Daven Voe is really the one who is teaching that zone.
“It slowed them down on offense, but it also slowed the pace of the game. I thought we needed to do that to be able to limit our turnovers.”
Senior guard/forward Jose Serrano and junior guard Cornell Greenwood shared game scoring honors with 18 points apiece for the Hounds (2-2), who travel to Canyon for a Thanksgiving Weekend event on Friday and Saturday. Serrano got 14 of his in the second half while Greenwood added 12, and they combined to shoot 11-of-15 from the floor for the game.
Sophomore guard Adam Hess added 14 points, while senior forward Yosnier Cobas chipped in 12.
“We were legitimately worried (about losing the game),” Serrano said. “We were sloppy in the first half, and definitely on defense.
“We probably could’ve controlled the game if we’d started (the way we finished).”
Greenwood knocked down a couple of big 3-pointers in the late surge. Senior forward James Jordan and Greenwood hit 3s on consecutive possessions to put the Hounds in front 66-63 with 5:46 remaining, and they broke away from a 68-68 tie with under five minutes left by scoring nine consecutive points.
“Cornell Greenwood played his best game of the year, and it was good to see,” Owen said. “He really shoots the ball well.”
Except for a couple of ties, ENMU led through the first 11 minutes of the half. The biggest margin was 27-19, but the Aggies (3-4) quickly wiped that out with 10 consecutive points and ran off a 21-4 blitz which gave them a nine-point lead late in the half.
ENMU closed the margin to 40-37 at the intermission, but every time the Hounds seemed to make a move the Aggies had an answer.
That is, until the defensive switch. The Hounds were moving between a 2-3 and a 3-2 zone, trying to cut off driving lanes and better being able to challenge shooters.
“We practice it quite a bit, but we’re a proud team and we like to guard the other team (man-to-man),” Serrano said. “(But) we realized guys were sliding through (against the man-to-man).
“To run that zone, you need really quick, athletic players. We were able to get them out of their rhythm.”
The Hounds shot 58 percent from the floor, including 16-of-24 in the second stanza. Meantime, OPSU finished at 49 percent, but cooled off after shooting 16-of-29 in the opening 20 minutes.
Junior guard/forward Justin Pyle led four Aggies in double figures with 17 points, going 6-for-6 from the floor and 5-of-7 from the foul line.
Serrano is hopeful the Hounds can get on a winning streak heading into LSC play starting in late December.
“Our (seniors’) whole goal is to leave a better culture at this place,” he said. “We want to make sure that next year everybody knows what we’re about.”
ENMU faces former Lone Star Conference member Southwestern Oklahoma on Friday night and Oklahoma Baptist on Saturday at Canyon. Both games are set to tip off at 6:30 p.m. (MST).
The Bulldogs (0-2) and Bison (2-1) are members of the 12-team Great American Conference. While Oklahoma Baptist were picked to win the GAC title, Owen said Southwestern is probably better than its 10th-place projection in GAC.
“They’re kind of hard to play against,” Owen said of the Bulldogs. “They throw a bunch of different defenses at you and try to turn the game into a scramble.”