KNIGHTS TAP SMU

by Dan M | Posted on Saturday, February 17th, 2018

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Cold Shooting Day Dooms Mustangs

BY: Dic Humphrey                                                                                                                                                                                              Member USBWA

SMU had its worst shooting day of the season Saturday morning against the Central Florida Knights before a crowd of 4,016 in Orlando. The Mustangs did not score a basket in the first 11:20 of the game and made just 10 more on the day, as UCF downed SMU 52-37. 37 points represents the lowest scoring game of the season, and 17 first half points is the lowest scoring half of the season for SMU. The Mustangs have now lost five games in a row, all without the injured Shake Milton, and fall to 15-12 overall and 5-9 in conference play. They are also 1-7 in true road games and 2-9 away from Moody Coliseum. This was an important win for UCF as the Knights are still hoping for a late season push for an NCAA Tournament bid. They improve to 17-9 overall and 8-6 in American Athletic Conference play.

The Mustangs started slowly with no baskets until the 8:40 mark in the first half. They trailed by as many as 13 points in the first half, but cut the lead to as few as three. However, late in the half, Central Florida rallied to take a nine point lead to the halftime locker room. The Ponies shot 26.3% from the floor making just five baskets, two of which were the only three point baskets they made in the game.

SMU hustled in the second half, and cut into the lead early, but they shot even worse after intermission – 25%. Head Coach Tim Jankovich has utilized mostly a zone defense in recent games, but he switched to a man-for-man that caused the stops and created the turnovers to give the Mustangs a chance to win the game. They simply could not score, getting no closer than five points in the second half.

Jahmal McMurray, the Mustangs’ best scoring option with Milton out, scored just seven points on the day. With few other options, the Knights concentrated on keeping McMurray off the three point line to shut him down. A. J. Davis, a 6’-8” forward, drew the defensive assignment to guard McMurray and did a great job. McMurray made just one three point basket after setting the school record with nine in last Wednesday’s Memphis game.

“He (Davis) may have played the best defensive game anyone has played against us this year,” Jankovich said on the KAAM 770 AM post-game show.

Ben Emelogu was the only Mustang to score in double digits. He put in 12 points by going 6-6 at the free throw line and making three baskets. Jimmy Whitt led the Mustangs with 11 rebounds as SMU out-rebounded their opponent 32-28. 11 of those Mustang boards were offensive rebounds, but they added up to just seven second chance points. SMU had only five assists in the game allocated one apiece to five different players.

Davis led UCF with 19 points in addition to holding down McMurray’s scoring output, and he recorded a double-double by adding 10 rebounds to lead the Knights on the boards. Daylon Griffin came off UCF’s bench to put in 10 points as the only other Knight to reach double figures in scoring.

“This (Central Florida) is a great defensive team, not a good defensive team,” Jankovich said. “We were playing as hard as we could. I’m proud of our guys. They did everything that you can control.” He admitted though that the losing streak is taking its toll on the team’s psyche. “They’re crushed. We’re used to winning. They continue to fight and try and there’s nothing else you can ask of a team.”

The Mustangs are again on the road next Wednesday night against East Carolina. Game time is 7:00 PM locally (6:00 PM Central), and the game will be televised on ESPN News.

NOTABLE:

  • This is the Mustangs’ first five game losing streak since the 2011-12 season. Central Florida, Memphis and Tulsa were also part of that losing streak.
  • The Mustangs’ Equestrian team beat Fresno State Friday to improve to 6-1 on the season. The Mustangs are currently ranked fourth in the nation.
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