MUSTANGS HALT SKID

by Dan M | Posted on Thursday, February 22nd, 2018

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BY: Dic Humphrey                                                                                                                      Member USBWA

The East Carolina Pirates proved to be the tonic the SMU Mustangs needed to end their five game losing streak. SMU looked like the team that Mustang fans saw in December, as they played solid defense and five players scored in double digits. The hot shooting Ponies got out to a double digit lead early and ran away with the game 77-58.   The win brings SMU’s overall record to 16-12 and their American Athletic Conference record to 6-9. East Carolina falls to 10-16 and 4-11.

“We needed something good to happen,” SMU Head Coach Tim Jankovich said in a post-game television interview. “We needed this desperately. I’m so proud. It’s been emotionally hard.”

The Mustangs started with an 11-0 run to open the game.   They soon followed that with a 14-0 run in route to a 41-23 halftime lead. The offensive execution was crisp, and the Mustangs came out with good energy.

SMU again dressed just seven scholarship players and two walk-ons. All seven scored in the first half. Elijah Landrum led with nine first half points followed by eight each from Ben Emelogu and Jahmal McMurray. For perspective of the turnaround, the 41 points scored in the first half were four more than they scored last Saturday against Central Florida in the entire game.

The second half started poorly for SMU. “We were back in the mediocre defense and turnover mode,” Jankovich said. The Mustangs scored the first basket, and then East Carolina followed with seven straight points to cut the lead to 13 at 43-30 in the first four minutes.

However that was as close as the Pirates would get. SMU righted the ship to put the game away with a 16-0 run over the next four minutes, stretching the lead to 29 points, their largest of the game.

The five starters all scored in double digits. Jahmal McMurray led with 20. Ben Emelogu was next with 16. Jimmy Whitt put in 13 points, while Akoy Agau and Elijah Landrum finished with 11 each. 11 points for Landrum is his career high.

Six different Mustangs grabbed at least five rebounds, as the Ponies out-rebounded ECU 39-30.

East Carolina’s Isaac Fleming led all scorers with 21 points. Four of his eight baskets were three pointers. B. J. Tyson was the other Pirate in double digits with 14.

Looking down the road to the conference tournament, the current standings would have the Mustangs matched up with Connecticut in a first round game with the winner facing Cincinnati in the second round.

The Mustangs have three games remaining in the regular season. The next two are at home starting with Wichita State this Saturday. SMU beat the Wheat Shockers in their first meeting on January 17 83-78. Wichita comes to town with a 22-5 overall record and a 12-3 record in conference play. They are currently tied with Houston for second place (in the loss column) in the conference race, trailing Cincinnati by one game in the loss column and one-half game in the standings. Game time is 1:00 PM (Central). The game will be televised on ESPN.

NOTABLE:

  • Coach Jankovich on Shake Milton: “He wants to get back in there and help his team. He’s injured. He’s not ready yet. I don’t know if he’s coming back.” Milton made the trip with the team, and took some shots in the morning shoot-around, but he was not medically cleared to play against East Carolina.
  • This was the Mustangs’ second true road win. They are 2-7 on the road and 3-9 away from Moody Coliseum counting neutral site games.
  • SMU has beaten ECU in the last nine meetings, and the Mustangs hold a 14-4 record all-time in the series.
  • Oddity: Ben Emelogu made six consecutive free throws in one trip down the court after getting fouled in the act of shooting and getting four extra opportunities when Kantrell Barkley received a pair of technical fouls and was ejected from the game.
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  1. Karl Koenig says:

    Dic, I was so happy to see the the results (was in Bible study at PCPC) and proud of their recovery. Hope the turn-around will last. Thanks for your summary….Karl

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