Eastern New Mexico 88, A&M-Commerce 85
Location: Greyhound Arena · Portales, N.M.
Records: A&M-Commerce (14-14, 7-11 LSC); Eastern New Mexico (12-14, 9-9 LSC)
Up Next: LSC Quarterfinals vs. Midwestern State · Wednesday, March 6 · 8:30 p.m.
PORTALES, N.M. – A&M-Commerce rediscovered its scoring touch, but unfortunately ran into an equally potent offensive attack as Eastern New Mexico outlasted A&M-Commerce to take an 88-85 victory in the season finale at Greyhound Arena. The loss is the fourth-straight for the Lions, who fall to 14-14 on the season and 7-11 in Lone Star Conference play.
With the loss, the Lions are locked into the eight-seed heading into the 2013 Lone Star Conference Basketball Championship this week in Allen, and will run into a familiar foe. A&M-Commerce will face top-seeded Midwestern State in the quarterfinals for the third-straight postseason, and ninth time in the past three seasons, at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 6 at the Allen Event Center.
Days after recording just 39 points against West Texas A&M, the lowest output for a team under head coach Sam Walker, the Lions were able to more than double that at Eastern New Mexico, notching 85 points on 41.8 percent shooting (28-of-67). After hitting less than 17 percent from the three-point arc in the past three outings, A&M-Commerce was much more efficient, hitting 7-of-17 (41.2 percent) while going 22-of-31 (71.0 percent) from the free throw line.
Five Lions finished in double figures on the afternoon, paced by 19 points, six rebounds and five assists from Devondrick Walker. Andrew Davis added a double-double with 10 points and a team-high 11 rebounds while Stefon Carson and Preston Whitley each notched 11 points apiece.
Quince Jackson finished with 10 for the Lions while Jason Smith and Kenny Brown each posted eight points for A&M-Commerce as Brown just missed his first career double-double, finishing with nine rebounds.
With the possibility of reaching as high as sixth in the Lone Star Conference standings, A&M-Commerce was looking to notch a big road victory as well as extend its winning streak against the Greyhounds to 12 games. Things looked good early for the Lions as a three-pointer by Walker helped give A&M-Commerce the early five-point cushion at 16-11.
However it was Eastern New Mexico that was able to start hitting its shots, stringing together a 13-2 run over the next three minutes to pull in front by six at 24-18. The Greyhounds would maintain the lead for the remainder of the first half, although the Lions were able to pull to within one on multiple occasions, taking the 42-40 lead into halftime.
Leading by as many as six early in the second half, Eastern New Mexico was unable to extend its lead on A&M-Commerce. Trailing 60-54, the Lions used a 14-1 run to jump out to its biggest lead of the game at 68-61 with 11:37 remaining. But once again, some efficient Greyhound shooting helped Eastern New Mexico use a 16-2 run over the next two and a half minutes, reclaiming the lead at 77-70 with 7:33 to go.
Eastern New Mexico was able to keep the Lions at bay down the stretch, but some clutch shooting and attempts from the free throw line kept A&M-Commerce in the game. Trailing 88-85 with two seconds left, Whitley had a chance at the game-tying three-pointer, but it was not to be as Eastern New Mexico ended its skid against A&M-Commerce.
The Greyhounds had monster performances from the duo of Rafael Love and Jordan Romero, who combined to score 51 of Eastern's 88 points. Love was 10-of-11 from the free throw line to complement his 12 rebounds while Romero shot a blistering 8-of-13 from three-point range, giving him 25 for the game. Rodney Blackmon finished with 16 points, seven rebounds and eight assists while Greg McFarland posted 12 points and five boards.
The losing streak comes as the worst time of the year for A&M-Commerce who limp into the postseason having lost four-straight games. The road doesn't get any easier as the Lions now have to prepare to face top-seeded Midwestern State Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. in the LSC quarterfinal. Tickets for the game are available through the A&M-Commerce Athletic Department by calling (903) 886-5558 or are also available at the Allen Event Center on game day.