by Dan M | Posted on Friday, February 9th, 2018


BY: Dic Humphrey                                                                                                          Member USBWA       

The University of Houston Cougars stayed in the race for the conference championship and a first round bye in the American Athletic Conference post-season tournament with a 67-58 come from behind win over the SMU Mustangs Thursday night at the Home and Physical Education Arena on the campus of Texas Southern University. The short-handed Mustangs played without their top two players – Shake Milton and Jarrey Foster – and gave an outstanding effort.  SMU forced the Cougars to rally in the final five minutes to keep their post-season hopes alive. Houston stays tied with Wichita State for second place in the conference standings at 8-3. The Cougars are 18-5 overall. The Mustangs drop to 15-9 overall and fall below .500 in conference play at 5-6, which ties them with three other teams for sixth place.

The Mustangs started fast as Jahmal McMurray quickly hit four three point shots to push SMU out to a 15-7 lead their largest of the game. Heavily favored Houston struggled as Rob Gray, the second leading scorer in the conference mis-fired. He shot 0-6 from the field in a scoreless first half. Armoni Brooks came off the Cougar bench to keep Houston in the game. He made six three point baskets to tally 18 points in the half. Houston finally took a lead with less than 10 minutes remaining at 20-19. It was a nip and tuck game from there to halftime with the Cougars forging a three point halftime lead at 36-33. Both teams made the same number of baskets and three point baskets. The Cougar lead came from the free throw line – UH made five, while SMU made just two. It was a game of three point shots. For SMU, McMurray led the first half scoring with 14 points and little used William Douglas came off the bench to put in 11 more.

The Mustangs came out smoking again to start the second half as they scored the first nine points on three three-point shots in the first two minutes. The Mustangs seemingly took charge of the game at that point and held a 57-50 lead with less than six minutes left in the game. From there though, the Mustangs completely fell apart. They never scored another basket as the Cougars tattooed them for a 17-1 run to finish off the win.

SMU Head Coach Tim Jankovich was pleased with the effort despite the result. He said on his post-game interview with Allen Stone on AM 770 KAAM, “Houston’s got a full team and they are really good”.   He of course was referring to his team having available just seven scholarship players, including little used freshmen Elijah Landrum and William Douglas. He said about his team, “There’s a lot of pain in that locker room. When you put it all out there and you can’t get it done, it hurts.”

Three Mustangs finished the night with double digit scoring totals. McMurray hit just one three point basket in the second half to bring his point total to 17 to lead SMU. Akoy Agau scored in double digits for the first time in his SMU career with 13 points. He also led the team with a season high seven rebounds. Freshman William Douglas didn’t score in the second half, but still posted his career high with 11 points. Agua and Douglas did not start, so their combined total of 24 bench points was one of the better efforts for SMU this season.

For Houston, Brooks finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds, both game highs. Rob Gray carried the load in the second half with 15 points. He also had a game high seven assists. Corey Davis, Jr. chipped in with 10 points to be the Cougars’ third double digit scorer.

This was a game that had serious NCAA Tournament ramifications. ESPN braketologist Joe Lunardi’s most recent projection had Houston projected to be one of the last four teams in the tournament, and SMU as one of the last eight teams out. The win strengthens Houston’s resume for an at-large NCAA Tournament bid. For SMU, the NCAA Tournament is fading fast from the horizon, and they need to turn things around if they hope to get an NIT bid.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         The Mustangs return to Moody Coliseum for their next two games. First up is the Cincinnati Bearcats who are undefeated in conference play after 11 games and are ranked sixth in both major polls this week. Game time is 3:00 PM (Central) Sunday. ESPN televises the game. The Memphis Tigers follow next Wednesday for a Valentine’s night at Moody.


  • SMU’s road woes continue as they are now 1-6 in road games and 2-8 in games played in venues other than Moody Coliseum.
  • Houston leads the all-time series with 49 wins to SMU’s 32 wins.

Jankovich said that Shake Milton is “day-to-day”. He hopes Milton will be able to play Sunday.

Displaying 1 Comments
Add Your Comment
  1. Karl Koenig says:

    Dic, Thanks for this great summary. Laney and I watched every minute, but just had the feeling along the way that we hadn’t the power to finish off Houston. Hurts till we get those two back in the rotation, but I am proud of their effort and Jankovich’s honesty and outlook. Don’t want to lose him! KK

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these html tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>