A college basketball coach never relaxes until the victory is at hand.
A case in point was Texas A&M University-Commerce’s 84-77 Lone Star Conference victory over Eastern New Mexico on Saturday in the Field House. Even though the Lions rolled up a quick 23-4 lead and stayed in front except for one brief moment, A&M-Commerce coach Sam Walker didn’t count on career victory No. 203 until it was over.
“At no point in the game did I think we were out of the dark,” he said.
Walker, now the Lions’ winningest coach of all time, learned a long time ago that there are no easy victories in this conference.
“Every game’s tough,” he said. “There’s not a night off.”
A&M-Commerce won a big game even though its leading scorer for the season, Preston Whitley, did not play due to technical reasons. Whitley, who’s averaging 14.6 points, sat out after receiving his third technical foul of the season in the Lions’ 67-53 loss at West Texas A&M on Wednesday night.
Devondrick Walker, who had been averaging 8.4, picked up the slack with 17 points off 6-of-10 shooting.
“It’s a huge win,” said Devondrick Walker. “It sits us at 4-4 in the conference. A loss would have put us close to last so it was huge.”
The A&M-Commerce junior from South Garland credited his head coach for the fast start.
“He fires us up every day.”
Armed with the third-leading scorer in the conference, the Greyhounds battled back to within 34-30 and 38-34 before halftime. Rafael Love hit a 3-pointer and scored on a layup to give the Greyhounds their only lead at 52-50 with 13:58 remaining. The Lions responded with a 13-1 run keyed by Craig Fofang, Stefon Carson and Devondrick Walker.
Adboulaye N’doye, the Lions’ 7-foot center from Senegal, also gave them a big lift with an alley oop slam off a feed from Walker and then a blocked shot at the other end as A&M-Commerce’s lead went back up to double digits.
Love and Rodney Blackmon, the LSC’s third-leading scorer, would not give up and hit some big buckets to bring the Greyounds to within 75-72 with 4:22 remaining.
But Tyrie Wooten, Kenny Brown and Walker answered with clutch shots to put the Lions back up 82-75 and Jason Smith and Stefon Carson added a couple of free throws to ensure the victory as the Lions improved to 11-7 for the season.
Eastern New Mexico, which had been tied with the Lions for fifth place in the conference, dropped to 6-10 and 3-5.
Carson finished with 13 points for the Lions, while Andrew Davis added 10 points and nine rebounds and Quince Jackson finished with 10 points.
Blackmon, who was 7-of-13 from downtown, led the Greyhounds and all scorers with 25 points and Love finished with 19 points.
One key statistic that Sam Walker pointed out was the Lions’ 50-35 rebound advantage. All those rebounds helped the coach rest a little easier.
Lone Star Conference basketball
Eastern N.M. 36 41 —77
A&M-Commerce 41 43 —84
EASTERN N.M. (77)
Rodney Blackmon 9-23 0-0 25, Rafael Love 8-18 1-1 19, Kyle Lantz 3-7 0-0 8, Dennis Hardwell 3-9 0-0 7, Jordan Awoye 0-0 0, Dylan Houlihan 1-1 0-0 2, Greg McFarland 2-5 2-4 6, Jordan Romero 0-2 0, Deyton De La Cerda 0-0 0-0 0, Lawrene Doming0 2-6 0-0 4, Phil Henry 3-6 0-2 6. Totals 31-77 12-32 77.
Tyrie Wooten 1-7 3-6 5, Jason Smith 1-4 3-4 6, Stefon Carson 5-12 1-4 13, Andrew Davis 5-6 0-0 10, Kenny Brown 4-8 0-0 9, Devondrick Walker 6-10 3-4 17, Quince Jackson 3-7 2-2 10, Craig Fofang 3-4 0-0 6, Donavon Gage 3-5 0-1 6, Abdoulaye N’Doye 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 32-64 12-21 84.
3-point goals — ENMU 12-32 (Blackmon 7-13, Love 2-9, Lantz 2-5, Hardwell 1-2, Romero 0-2, Domingo 0-1), A&M-C 8-19 (Wooten 4, Smith 1-2, Carson 2-5, Brown 1-1, Walker 2-3, Jackson 2-4); rebounds — A&M-C 50 (Davis 9), ENMU 35 (Henry 8); assists — A&M-C 26 (Wooten 8), ENMU 15 (Blackmon 7); total fouls — ENMU 20 (fouled out: Blackmon), A&M-C 6; attendance — 808.
Records: A&M-C 11-7, 4-4; ENMU 6-10, 3-5.
Next game: Tarleton State at A&M-Commerce, 4 p.m. Saturday.
A college basketball coach never relaxes until the victory is at hand.
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Leonard Tigers practice in Greenville
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The Tigers bused to Greenville and then worked out inside the Lions’ Roy Q. Traylor practice facility.
“We had a great workout for a short one,” said Leonard coach Shane Fletcher, whose Tigers practiced for about an hour.
The 10-3 Tigers are scheduled to play the 13-0 Cooper Bulldogs at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Wylie ISD stadium. But because of inclement weather, that game could be changed to Monday, according to Fletcher.
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