A&M-Commerce 84, Eastern New Mexico 77
Location: The Field House • Commerce, Texas
Records: A&M-Commerce (11-7, 4-4 LSC); Eastern New Mexico (6-10, 3-5 LSC)
Up Next: vs. Tarleton State • Saturday, Jan. 26 • 4 p.m. • The Field House
COMMERCE, Texas – Saturday's showdown between A&M-Commerce and Eastern New Mexico was a classic high-tempo affair filled with extended runs and clutch shooting by both squads. But in the end, it was the Lions that landed the final blow, defeating the Greyhounds for the 11th-straight time with an 84-77 victory at the Field House.
A&M-Commerce improves to 11-7 on the year, snapping a two-game losing streak while surpassing its win total from the 2011-12 season, and also improved to 6-1 in home games this season. The Lions also upped their Lone Star Conference record to 4-4,remaining in the thick of the tight conference battle, as head coach Sam Walker continued his dominance of Eastern New Mexico, improving to 15-4 all-time against the Greyhounds.
A balanced offensive attack propelled the Lions to the victory, led by 17 points from Devondrick Walker who hit six of his 10 shots from the floor. Stefon Carson added 13 points with six assists while Andrew Davis just missed another double-double, finishing with 10 points and nine rebounds. Quince Jackson also added 10 points for A&M-Commerce, scoring it all in the opening half to complement his four rebounds.
Kenny Brown had a solid night in his first A&M-Commerce start, finishing with nine points, eight rebounds and a pair of blocks, as Jason Smith contributed six points and six rebounds. Tyrie Wooten notched a team-high eight assists to go along with his five points and six rebounds while Abdoulaye N'doye had his best performance of the season, finishing with a game-high three blocks and an alley-oop slam in six minutes of action.
Slow starts and cold shooting early in games had been the Lions' Achilles heel in the past five games, but A&M-Commerce did all they could to buck that trend early against Eastern New Mexico. The Lions roared out of the gates, building a 23-4 lead over the Greyhounds through the first 12 minutes of the game and appeared in complete control.
But in a trend that would leave its stamp on the Saturday matinee at the Field House, Eastern New Mexico answered that with an impressive streak of its own, outscoring the Lions 16-4 over the next four minutes to cut the gap to seven at 27-20. The Greyhounds would get to within four on a pair of occasions in the first half as A&M-Commerce took the 41-36 lead into the halftime break.
The Lions would build their lead back to nine early in the second half, upping its lead on the Greyhounds to 45-36 less than a minute in. Eastern New Mexico would then settle into its groove once again, outscoring A&M-Commerce 16-5 over the next six minutes, ultimately taking the lead at 52-50 with 13:58 remaining.
Following the pattern of the evening, the run by the Greyhounds only triggered the Lion offense as A&M-Commerce used its own 13-1 spurt over the next three minutes to reclaim a double-digit advantage at 63-53.
That set up what would prove to be a thrilling exchange over the final 10 minutes of play as A&M-Commerce and Eastern New Mexico exchanged clutch shooting down the stretch. The Greyhounds were able to cut the deficit to as little as three at 75-72 with four minutes remaining. But A&M-Commerce's defense came up big when it had to, keeping Eastern New Mexico from hitting the momentum-swinging shots and outlasting the Greyhounds to preserve the 84-77 victory.
A&M-Commerce had one of its best shooting nights of the season, hitting 50 percent of its shots from the floor (32-of-64) while connecting on eight of its 19 three-point attempts (42.1 percent). Eastern New Mexico continued to solidify its reputation as the top three-point shooting team in the conference, putting up 32 three point attempts but connecting on just 12 (37.5 percent) while shooting 40.3 percent (31-of-77) from the floor. The Lions also held a significant advantage in free throw shooting, attempting 21 and making 12 (57.1 percent) while the Greyhounds were just three of seven from the line (42.9 percent).
Eastern New Mexico's Rodney Blackmon continued to make a strong push as the LSC's Newcomer of the Year, recording a game-high 25 points, including hitting seven-of-13 three-pointers. Rafael Love added 19 points and six rebounds inside for the Greyhounds with Kyle Lantz finishing with eight points on the afternoon.
A&M-Commerce now prepares for a home-and-home series with LSC rival Tarleton State, and the Lions will have plenty of time to prepare for the Texans. Coach Walker's team doesn't return to the floor until Saturday, January 26th with the opening tip scheduled for 4 p.m. at the Field House.