for the second year in a row Western New Mexico men’s basketball opened up the season with a pair of games against Oklahoma Panhandle University. This time we were at home which has to help, especially when you have a young team like Western New Mexico. With a lot of new faces in the first year head coach, you can expect a steep learning curve. There are going to be some deep valleys and probably some high peaks, but the one thing you want to see is the season moves along, is improvement and a leveling out of those peaks and valleys, hopefully more towards the peak in the Valley.
Friday night the Mustangs opened up with a win, 83-73 over the Aggies. Jordan Enriquez, who led the Mustangs in scoring both nights, was the most consistent player as far as scoring. A few things I liked about the game was the adjustments we made, especially on the defense in the second half. In the first half of Friday night’s game Oklahoma’s Jace Kerr went off on the Mustangs scoring 22 points. He was aggressive and basically outworked the defenders for Western New Mexico. But in the second half Coach Enriquez opted for a zone defense which completely shut him down. In fact the shooters for Oklahoma could not get a good shot and missed a lot especially from three.
Offensively for the Mustangs on Friday night, you saw what you’re going to see from young players. CJ Vanbeekum is probably most representative of what we will expect. CJ came off of the bench and hit a couple of quick three-pointers gaining some confidence but then he started taking some shots that may be were not the best selection. Eddie Giron got the start and was pretty consistent but did have some times where he couldn’t get off a good shot. We also saw that Latrell Spivey is going to give us a solid presence inside on both ends of the floor. He is a competitor and doesn’t mind banging around inside defensively or going for rebounds. And Emery range gave us a double-double with points and rebounds. Overall I like the hustle and the effort put forth by the team on both ends of the floor.
Saturday night was a bit of a different game for both teams. On Friday night it was high-scoring in the first half but Saturday night it did not look like either team would come close to the offense of output that they showed on Friday night. In the last 5-6 minutes of the first half both teams started making some shots but neither team could really get into a rhythm on Saturday night. That is until the second half, When Oklahoma Panhandle State University got hot from downtown. In the second half Oklahoma shot 51% from the floor and just over 40% from three point land. The Mustang stayed with the man-to-man defense most of the second half which was a bit surprising giving that Coach Tafoya told us in the halftime show that we should expect to see more zone, especially the 1-3-1 zone that the team had been working on. We did not really see that.
Offensively we saw will probably be described as a Valley shooting the ball. The Aggies stayed in a zone defense throughout the night and it kept Western New Mexico from executing the dribble penetration that is the core of their offense. In the second half, we really had trouble with that defensive scheme as evidenced by taking only three foul shots in the second half. That’s a clear indicator that we are not aggressive enough offensively. We were standing around on the perimeter in that does not put you in a good position to take a three point shot.
Overall there some good things to be positive about as well as some things that need to improve one last thing I would say that we need to improve especially given the new rules about fouls, is go to the basket aggressively and shoot expecting to make it. Too often on both nights I saw our players drive to the bucket and go up expecting to get filed and not really worrying about making the shot. We have to go up every time expecting to make the shot, trying to make the shot especially if they’re not gonna call those files or if they do and we make it it’s an old-fashioned three-point opportunity.