PONIES CATCH A WAVE

by Dan M | Posted on Sunday, January 21st, 2018

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BY: Dic Humphrey                                                                                                                                                                                      Member USBWA

UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas – SMU overcame a sluggish start to catch the Tulane Green Wave and win their second game of the week 73-62. Tulane took the early lead and stayed in the game in the second half on the strength of their three point shooting. The Mustangs defense created the scoring opportunities to overcome the slow start. The win avenged a loss to Tulane earlier this month. The Ponies are 14-6 for the regular season and 4-3 in American Athletic Conference play with the win. The conference record ties the Mustangs for fourth place with two other teams behind Cincinnati (6-0), Wichita State (5-2) and Houston (5-2). Tulane falls to 12=7 and 3-4.

The Mustangs came out flat. They were sluggish and shot poorly. Leading scorer Shake Milton was 0-8 from the floor and scored just two points in the first half. Tulane built a nine point lead at 16-7, but Jimmy Whitt, Jr. rallied the Mustangs. In the span of 58 seconds he stole the ball on four consecutive Tulane possessions to jump start the SMU offense. He scored 12 first half points and to go along with those four steals to lead the Mustangs back to a 30-27 halftime lead.

Tulane came out smoking in the second half, scoring the first seven points to re-take the lead. Shake Milton finally made a basket and went on to score 18 points in the final 13 minutes of the game. Jahmal McMurray added 10 after intermission to push the Mustangs to the win.

“I’ve got really encouraging teammates,” Milton said about his miserable first half. “They told me to keep fighting. They told me to keep shooting.”

Milton ended up leading the Mustangs with 20 points and has now scored in double digits in every Mustang game this season and in 21 consecutive games dating back to last season. Jimmy Whitt finished with 18 points. McMurray and Ben Emelogu also scored in double digits with 13 and 11 points respectively. Akoy Agau made some meaningful baskets in his best game for the Mustangs so far. He finished with nine points

The Green Wave’s Melvin Frazier hit six three point shots on his way to 27 points to lead Tulane.

It was a hard fought win for SMU. Tulane is much improved having already won twice as many games as they did last year (12 verses six). It was far from pretty, and the Green Wave’s three point shooting enabled runs. Jarrey Foster was not available with a strained knee. Everett Ray was also unavailable because of injury suffered in warmups before the game; so the Mustangs played with just eight scholarship players. No matter how it looked on the court, it was an important win. If SMU is to get back into the NCAA Tournament picture, defending the home court is a must.

Head Coach Tim Jankovich was especially pleased with players that stepped up in Foster’s absence. “Jimmy Whitt was amazing. When we’re really struggling he gets his hands on four balls in a row. Changed the game. Changed the momentum. I’m so happy for Akoy (Agau). What you see is not who he really is. I hope he can stay healthy and we can build on that. He was a big factor tonight.”

SMU travels to Connecticut for their next game. It will be played at the Gampel Pavilion on campus in Storrs, Connecticut, rather than the XL Center in Hartford. UCONN is one of the four conference opponents that SMU plays just once this year, so there will be no return engagement in Dallas. The game is next Thursday, January 25, and game time is 7:00 PM Eastern/6:00 PM Central. It will be telecast on the CBS Sports Network.

NOTABLE:

  • Former SMU basketball walk-on Kevin Dunleavy is the nephew of Tulane Head Coach Mike Dunleavy, and Kevin is the Green Wave’s video coordinator.
  • Coach Jankovich was optimistic that Foster would be back soon, though he didn’t put a timetable on his return.
  • SMU is 21-14 all-time verses Tulane.
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