ADA — To a casual observer, the East Central University men’s basketball team might have appeared to come crashing back to earth Saturday, losing 82-67 to Angelo State just two days after dominating Abilene Christian in the first game of the Tigers’ current six-game homestand.

But to ECU coach Terry Shannon, Saturday’s loss was just a case of bad timing.

“We played pretty well on Saturday ...(ASU) just played EXTREMELY well,” said Shannon, who got 28 points from senior point guard Terrell Carpenter and saw his young club shoot 51 percent from the field but fall victim to a 3-point barrage by the Rams. “Angelo is probably the most talented team in our league, and when they play that well I don’t know that anybody in our league can beat them.

“That being said, we had our chances to win the game,” he added. “We missed some shots inside and we had some turnovers that hurt, but overall we played pretty well. We outrebounded them and shot over 50 percent from the field.”

The ECU men will continue their long six-game homestand to close out the 2007 portion of their schedule Saturday, facing St. Edward’s in the nightcap of a doubleheader that begins with a women’s game at 6 p.m. ECU’s women’s squad, which beat Abilene (62-61) on a last-second 3-pointer by Jastin Flenory Thursday, lost to Angelo in double overtime last Saturday, and the Lady Tigers will wrap up the home portion of their pre-Christmas schedule this weekend.

Shannon’s Tigers will face Rhema Bible Monday and Dallas Baptist Tuesday at the East Central Christmas Classic and host Tabor on Jan. 29, while the Lady Tigers will wrap up 2007 at Texas Women’s University Wednesday.

“We’re getting better on a daily basis ... I’m pleased with where we’re at right now,” said Shannon, whose club fell to 3-2 with Saturday’s loss. “You would always rather start the season winning your first five games, but it’s more important to win your last five games.”

Shannon said he has been most pleased with his offense, which is one of the most balanced in the LSC through the first few weeks of the season, and with his rebounding, which was a staple of his last two Tiger squads.

“This team has surprised me with how well they’ve rebounded,” Shannon said. “It was a concern of mine because of how well we rebounded the past two years and the fact we lost a lot of our rebounding from last season, but we’ve rebounded well.

“Angelo was the best offensive rebounding team in our league, and we outrebounded them and held them to eight offensive rebounds,” he added. “That one aspect has been a pleasant surprise to me.”

Carpenter’s big game Saturday moved him into the top 10 in the conference in scoring (at 15.4 points per game) for the first time this season, and junior Justin Wilkerson also had a big weekend (including a 22-point effort against ACU) to move into the 22nd spot in league scoring at 11.4 points per outing. Those two were the only Tigers in the top 30 in the league, but eight ECU players are averaging at least 6.6 points through five games. Shannon’s club ranks fourth in the LSC in scoring (77.6 points per game), second in field goal percentage (49.8) and fourth in scoring margin (7.4 points per game).

“Our shot selection really got better against Abilene and Angelo,” Shannon said. “When you shoot that good a percentage, it means you’re taking the proper shots.

“The good thing about this group is we’re versatile and we have a bunch of guys who can score,” he said. “It’s almost impossible for the other team to take away EVERYTHING we want to do offensively. We might not have a guy this year who is in the top 15 in the league in scoring, but we might have six guys in the top 20 because we share the basketball.”

Wilkerson’s big start to the homestand was part of a resurgence for the ECU front-line rotation of Wilkerson (who is tied with Don Riley for the team rebounding lead at 6.6 per game), junior Ian Adams, sophomore Michael Dyson and senior Dominique Scales (who recently returned from a groin injury). The 6-9 Adams, who had a season-high 15 points against ACU, and Dyson, who has emerged as one of ECU’s most reliable scorers after missing the team’s exhibition schedule with an injury, rank fourth and third in team scoring at 8.6 and 9 points per game, respectively, and they have combined for 9.6 rebounds per game for a team ranked second in the LSC in rebounding margin at 10.6 per game.

“Our three post guys (Wilkerson, Dyson and Adams) scored 47 points against Abliene, and they just missed eight shots between them,” Shannon said. “We got good production against Angelo, we just ran into a team that played pretty well.

“Our inside game is okay,” he added. “We’re a long way from where we need to be, but we’re okay for this time of the year. We’re past worrying about big lineup, little lineup. We have to get tougher on defense, but we have some kids who will compete and go rebound the basketball.”

In St. Edward’s, ECU will be facing a team the Tigers have beaten the last three seasons but a club coming off back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances. Shannon said he expects a fast-paced game Saturday.

“They’re a good team — they like to push the basketball,” Shannon said of Saturday’s opponent. “They’re probably more similar to Abilene but not as athletic as Angelo. We’re going to have to be able to handle their press and be able to finish on the other end.

“We’ll have to play well, but I like our athleticism and our tenacity,” he added. “And we’re starting to believe in ourselves.”

While the ECU men have lost two of their three games heading into Saturday’s contest, the ECU women are 5-2 and missed a golden opportunity to win their third straight game Saturday. Flenory, who earned LSC North co-Player of the Week honors two weeks ago, fouled out late in regulation, and when junior Kacey Thomas fouled out in the first overtime, the Lady Tigers were without their emotional leader (Flenory) in overtime and without their second and third leading scorers and two of their top defensive players in the second extra period.

Franz, who played his starters the entire second half in Thursday’s game, said fatigue could have played a role in his team’s slow start (ASU led 26-9 midway through the first half) and finish Saturday but said he was disappointing in his team’s overall effort in the loss.

“If we do a better job of defending them in regulation, we wouldn’t have had to worry about overtime,” he said. “It hurts us on both ends of the floor when Jastin’s not out there, just because of how hard she plays.

“(Playing the starters so many minutes) probably came back to haunt us a little bit in the game Saturday,” he added. “We tried to spell them a little bit here and there, but when you take our best two defenders off the floor, they kind of had us outmanned in the overtimes. We might have had dead legs because our starters played so many minutes Thursday, but 19 and 20-year-old kids should have more energy than that. We had a great opportunity to start off 3-0 against the South, and that loss Saturday could be a big factor come February.”

Franz said his team’s fast start hasn’t translated into a strong beginning to every game. Although the Lady Tigers rallied several times against the Lady Rams, he said their sluggish start probably cost them the game.

“We preach and preach to our players that we never know when the game is on the line and you should treat every possession as such, and that was never more true than in our two games last week,” he said. “My main concern right now is our preparation for each game. I’m disappointed that with the veteran team we have we don’t understand the importance of getting ready for every game.

“Against Angelo, we came out like we’d rather be anywhere but there,” he added. “Ten minutes into the game we’re down 26-9 and all of a sudden we decided to start playing and cut it to three at halftime. It was a dogfight from there, but why spot them 17 points?”

Franz said he hopes to solve some of the problem by getting his bench more involved — something he hasn’t been able to do much so far this season.

“At this point, the light bulb just hasn’t come on for some of our younger players,” he explained. “It’s nobody’s fault -- it’s just a process they have to go through.”

In St. Edward’s the Lady Tigers will face a club that manhandled them last season and which pushed LSC North power Southeastern to the limit in a loss last week. Franz said his team will have to play a full 40 minutes Saturday to get its sixth win of the season.

“(St. Edward’s) beat us 15 or 16 at their place last year, and they lost by one at Southeastern about a week ago,” he said. “If we play like we played after the first 10 minutes of the that Angelo game, we’ll be fine; if we go 10 minutes where we’re not executing and not defending, we’ll be in trouble. It’s pretty cut and dried.”

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