MUSTANGS WHIP TROJANS

by Dan M | Posted on Sunday, December 3rd, 2017

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BY:  Dic Humphrey                                                                                                                                                                                      Member USBWA

UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas – The 2017-18 edition of Mustang basketball did something Saturday night that last year’s team couldn’t – they beat the Southern California Trojans. Last year’s team set the school record for wins with 30 and lost just five games. Two of the losses came at the hands of the Trojans, including the one that sent SMU home from the NCAA Tournament.

Saturday night, the young Mustangs, only three of whom played in last year’s games against USC, beat essentially the same USC team, which has eight of the nine players in their rotation returning. The deceiving score was 72-55. It’s deceiving because this was a much more hard fought win than the 17 point margin indicates.

On Friday, SMU senior Ben Emelogu, II one of the three players that saw action against Southern Cal last year, said, ”I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t amped up more for this game than other games.”

Early on, the Mustangs looked too amped up. They were tight and tentative. They struggled against USC’s press and zone defense. They shot poorly. They missed free throws. With seven minutes left in the half, they trailed by eight points at 25-17. Head Coach Tim Jankovich made a strategic move to go small with his lineup at that point, and the Mustangs went on a 10-2 run to tie the game with 11 seconds left. Unfortunately, the Trojans hit a three as time was running out to take a 30-27 lead to the halftime locker room.

The second half was one of the best played halves of the season for the Ponies. SMU’s early game jitters were gone. Jankovich switched to a zone defense. It turned the tables, as USC had difficulty getting the ball inside and in shooting from the outside. Four plus minutes into the half, the Mustangs took the lead at 38-37 and never trailed again.

Emelogu led the charge with 11 second half points. He hit critical baskets as the Ponies built the lead into double digits at 50-40 with 8:43 left in regulation. The lead twice grew to as many as 18 points.

“I’m really, really, really proud of our guys,” Jankovich said. “It was a tremendous effort. I’m really happy for all our guys, but especially I call it 3-1/2 coming back. Jimmy (Whitt) was involved. He wasn’t on the court, but he felt it too; but not like Ben (Emelogu, II), Shake (Milton) and Jarrey (Foster). We obviously wanted this game very badly. We felt like it was important for a lot of reasons. When you play ranked teams, by definition, they’re big games.”

Milton struggled in the first half on 2-5 shooting and 2-4 from the free throw line. He came back with 14 second half points to finish with 22 on the night. It was Milton’s fourth game to crack the 20 point mark and raised his average to 18.7 per game. He was also just an assist away from a double-double. His nine assists led the Mustangs.

The other double digit scorers for SMU were Emelogu with 16, Whitt with 14 and Foster with 13. Emelogu hit six of seven shots, including 4-5 from the three point line. Foster was a rebound shy of a double-double, as the Mustangs again out-rebounded their opponent 32-29.

But as so often is the case, the Mustangs’ defense was the deciding factor. The Trojans three leading scorers all scored less than their season average. Leading scorer Bennie Boatwright (16.8 PPG) scored just eight points including zero in the second half. Chimeze Melu (16.6 PPG) scored 13, and Jordan McLaughlin (14.4 PPG) scored nine. 55 points is Southern Cal’s lowest scoring game of the season.

“It definitely meant a lot,” Milton said after the game. “We lost to them twice last year. We knew they were coming in to Moody, and we weren’t going to lose this game no matter what.”

SMU’s record improves to 7-2 with the win. The loss drops number 14/18 USC to 4-2.

The Mustangs’ difficult start to December continues Tuesday night in Ft. Worth when they face the TCU Horned Frogs. TCU was ranked 23rd in the AP Poll this week and has an 8-0 record after beating Yale Saturday afternoon. Game time is 8:00 PM (Central), and it will be televised on Fox Sports Southwest.

NOTABLE:

  • SMU’s home winning streak was extended to 28 games with the win. 24 of those wins have been by double digit margins. It is the second longest current home winning streak in the NCAA trailing Cincinnati at 30 games. Since the Mustangs finished November of 2016 with a 4-3 record, they have won 33 of 37 games. The combined margin in the four losses is eight points.
  • Southern Cal’s seven game road winning streak came to an end.
  • SMU fielded requests from at least 20 NBA teams to accommodate at least 30 scouts for the game.
  • Attendance was 6,918, the first official sellout this season, and the 50th sellout in the last 72 home games.
  • SEEN AT THE GAME: Former President and First Lady, George and Laura Bush.
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  1. Robert Harris says:

    Great recap as usual
    Redeye

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