THE BIG DOG BITES PONIES

by Dan M | Posted on Friday, January 26th, 2018

2018_1_25SMUMustangsUConnHuskiesMBB088.0

BY: Dic Humphrey

A miserable shooting night doomed the Mustangs Thursday night in Gampel Pavilion on the Storrs, Connecticut, campus of the University of Connecticut. The UCONN Huskies bit into SMU’s chances for an NCAA bid with a 63-52 win. The Ponies shot just 28% for the game, including a unseemly 24% in the second half to kill their chance for a win. It was their worst shooting performance and produced their lowest scoring total of the season. UCONN improves to 11-9 for the season and 4-3 in American Athletic Conference play; while SMU drops to 14-7 and 4-4.

The Mustangs started hot with an 8-0 game opening run. After the first media time out, Connecticut rallied with an 11-0 run to take the lead, a lead that they maintained for the balance of the first half. The Huskies were ahead 27-24 at intermission. The Mustangs opened the second period with a 6-1 run to re-take the lead at 30-29.   SMU extended that lead to four points at 40-36, but Connecticut put together a 10-0 run to take the lead for good at 46-40. The Huskies’ margin soon ran into double digits at 54-44 with 3:18 left. At that point, the UCONN win was a done deal.

“To shoot in the 20’s (percent) is incredibly frustrating,” SMU Head Coach Tim Jankovich said on the KAAM 770 AM post game radio show. “We had the coldest (shooting) night I can remember. I feel awful, because this was a winnable game.” Jankovich and announcers Rich Phillips and Alan Stone believe this was the worst shooting percentage game in the six years since Larry Brown and Jankovich took over the program.

Shake Milton, the reigning conference Player of the Week, led the Mustangs with 18 points. That’s a deceiving number as Milton hit two three point baskets in the first two minutes of the game, but was hardly heard from until late in the game when the outcome was all but decided. He did hit four of the seven three point baskets the Mustangs made. Jimmy Whitt was the only other Mustang in double digits with 14 points. Ben Emelogu was SMU’s leading rebounder with 10 boards. He made just two baskets and was just 1-6 from the three point line after leading the conference in three point shooting percentage for most of the season.

Connecticut’s Christian Vital led all scorers with 20 points. That included five made three point shots. Jalen Adams was the only other Husky in double digits with 18 points. Josh Carlton pulled down a game high 12 rebounds.

This was the third “winnable game” the Mustangs have let slip away in conference play. With it, their chances for an at-large NCAAA Tournament bid are slipping away too. For sure, this was a game where Jarrey Foster was missed. Foster is out for the season with a partially torn ACL, so the Mustangs have to win without him, if they hope to play in the Big Dance.

SMU returns to the friendly confines of Moody Coliseum for its next game on Sunday at 1:00 PM Central. The opponent is East Carolina, and the CBS Sports Network will televise the game. SMU GREAT Gene Phillips will be honored at half time, when his #23 will be retired.

NOTABLE:

  • SMU fell to 1-4 this year in true road games. The Mustangs are also 1-2 in neutral site game to total 2-6 in games not played at Moody Coliseum.
  • The Mustangs have three wins over teams ranked in the top 15 at the time of the game. (Arizona, Southern Cal and Wichita Staqte.) Oklahoma with four such wins is the only other NCAA team with at least three.
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