HURRICANE BLOWS AWAY MUSTANGS

by Dan M | Posted on Friday, February 2nd, 2018

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BY: Dic Humphrey                                                                                                                                                                                                      Member USBWA

The Tulsa Golden Hurricane played a strong second half to pull away to a 67-76 win over SMU in the Reynolds Center on the campus of Tulsa University. The already short-handed Mustangs came into this game without their leading scorer – Shake Milton. Milton, a solid candidate for the conference Player of the Year Award, injured his right hand late in last Sunday’s game against East Carolina. The Tulsa win puts the conference record of both SMU and Tulsa at 5-5. Tulsa is 12-10, while SMU is 15-8 overall for the season.

The Mustangs led in the early going as Jahmal McMurray scored their first 13 points. Tulsa put together a 10-0 run late in the half to lead by six, but the Mustangs scrambled to a one point halftime lead when they scored five points in the last 10 seconds. It was really a fine half of basketball with incredible energy and solid play from little used players such as Elijah Landrum and William Douglas.

This game got away from the Mustangs at the start of the second half. The Mustangs looked tired – all the first half energy seemed to have disappeared – coming out of the halftime locker room. Tulsa took charge of the game with a 12-0 run to start the half.

“We just couldn’t get out of the hole,” SMU Head Coach Tim Jankovich said in his post-game interview on radio station KAAM 770 AM. Tulsa never again trailed in the game. The Mustangs rallied to make it a game after falling behind, but in the end, Tulsa’s superior depth won out. Tulsa played 11 players in the game, while SMU’s Jimmy Whitt, Jr. and Jahmal McMurray were forced to play all 40 minutes, as SMU dressed just seven scholarship players.

Ben Emelogu filled the scoring void with 17 second half points. It simply wasn’t enough. The Mustangs closed to within five points at the 9:40 mark, but Tulsa promptly hit a pair of three point baskets to push the lead back into double digits. SMU again brought it down to a two possession game with 1:15 left in the game, but Tulsa again answered the call.

Both teams utilized zone defenses for most of the game. The real difference was that Tulsa was able to work the ball down low, whereas SMU settled for outside shots. That led to SMU getting charged with 21 fouls in the game to just 10 for Tulsa. Consequently, Tulsa made 23 free throws while SMU shot just nine and made five. The Ponies made more baskets (25-22) and more three-point baskets (12-9) than Tulsa, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the 18 points the Hurricane netted at the free throw line.

Losing is never easy to accept, but under the circumstances with Milton out as well as Jarrey Foster and Everett Ray, who are already lost for the season with injuries, Thursday’s game was a fine effort. “For them to play like they did tonight, how can you not take your hat off,” Jankovich said. “I was proud. They played well enough to win. There is no way I can criticize this game.”

Emelogu led the Mustangs in scoring with a career high 24 points. McMurray was close behind with 22 points, which re-set his SMU career high. They were the only two double digit scorers for the Mustangs. Jimmy Whitt, Jr. pulled down 13 rebounds; the most any Mustang has recorded in a game this year. They racked up just nine assists as a team, a season low.

For Tulsa, five players scored in double digits led by Corey Henderson, Jr. with 18. Junior Etou was next with 17, followed by Martins Ibanu with 12, Jaleel Wheeler with 11 and DaQuan Jeffries with 10. Etou completed a double-double with 15 rebounds.

Make no bones about it though; this is a damaging loss in terms of SMU’s chances for an at-large NCAA Tournament bid. It was SMU’s second loss in their last three games and brings their road record to 1-5 for the year and their record in games played away from Moody Coliseum to 2-7.

SMU does not play this weekend. Jankovich said that Friday would be an off day, and then he would work out a practice schedule. Next week is a difficult week. They play Houston Thursday and Cincinnati on Sunday.  UH is tied in the loss column with Wichita State for second place in the conference standings, while Cincinnati remains undefeated in conference play. The UH game will be played in Houston at the Home and Physical Education Arena on the campus of Texas Southern University. This is Houston’s home court this year while Hofheinz Pavilion undergoes a massive renovation. Game time is 8:00 PM (Central), and the game will be televised on ESPN2. Game time for Cincinnati on Sunday is 3:00 PM (Central) in Moody Coliseum.

NOTABLE:

  • Shake Milton is just a “maybe” to play in next Thursday’s game against Houston.
  • The Mustangs are 19-32 all-time against Tulsa.
  • Jahmal McMurray made seven three point shots which was last done at Tulsa by Shake Milton on December 29, 2015.
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