COUGARS ROLL OVER MUSTANGS

by Dan M | Posted on Thursday, March 1st, 2018

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BY: Dic Humphrey                                                                                                                                                                                      Member USBWA

UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas – The University of Houston Cougars arrived at Moody Coliseum as one of the hotter teams in the country. They are coming together at the right time to do damage in the NCAA Tournament as they finished February with just one loss in eight games. Wednesday night before a crowd of 6,782 they found little resistance from the SMU Mustangs as they rolled to a relatively easy 69-56 win.

Both teams came out shooting poorly. SMU scored the first basket for their only lead of the game. Houston put 10 straight points on the board before SMU’s second score came with 11:24 remaining until the half. From there the Cougars pushed the lead into double digits and led by 12 at halftime, 36-24. The Mustangs never cut the lead into single digits after intermission.

SMU Head Coach Tim Jankovich sang his familiar tune of woe about the team’s injuries in his post-game interview on KAAM 770 AM. “The last 3-1/2 to four weeks have really been painful. What has hit us this year is beyond belief”. The Mustangs finished February with a 1-7 record with all games played without their leading scorer Shake Milton.

SMU actually played a decent defensive game. They edged the more physical Cougars in rebounds 33-32. UH is a strong three point shooting team, but Wednesday night they needed 31 attempts to hit nine (29%).

“We could not have asked for better defensive numbers against this team,” Jankovich said.

The problem was the Mustangs’ offense. They just couldn’t effectively shoot the ball. SMU is normally a good three point shooting team, but made just 3-12 in the game. The very few three point attempts are as surprising as making just three. SMU attempted just three long rangers in the second half when they always trailed by double digits.

Houston’s aggressive man-for-man defense had a lot to do with the Mustangs’ offensive ineptitude. SMU never had good ball movement and never seemed to get into any sort of a flow.

Houston remains in third place in the conference with a 13-4 record. They can do no worse than the number three seed in the American Athletic Conference post-season tournament. The 25th ranked Cougars are a lock to make the NCAA Tournament with a 23-6 overall record. They wrap up the regular season at home this Sunday against Connecticut.

The Mustangs season unraveled further to 16-14 overall and 6-11 in conference play. Their likely AAC tournament scenario is playing UCONN in the first round with the winner getting to meet the number one seed in the second round – either Cincinnati or Wichita State.

UH’s leading scorer on the season, Rob Gray, didn’t have a stellar shooting night going 8-18 including just 1-7 from the three point line; but he still led the Cougars with 19 points. Corey Davis, Jr. with 17 and Armoni Brooks off the bench with 12 points were the other double digit scorers for Houston. Brooks was the leading rebounder in the game with seven, while Gray dished out nine assists, more than SMU’s total for the game.

Jahmal McMurray led SMU with 17 points, despite hitting just one three pointer. Senior Ben Emelogu playing his final home game was the Mustangs’ other double digit scorer with 14 points, all scored in the second half.

The Mustangs close out conference play and the regular season this Sunday in Tampa where they will face South Florida. The Bulls are 8-21 for the season and 1-15 in conference play. They play Memphis Thursday night before hosting the Mustangs. SMU beat USF in the team’s first meeting on December 31 79-39. Game time is 2:00 PM Eastern/1:00 PM Central, and it will be televised on ESPN News.

NOTABLE:

  • Akoy Agau was honored prior to Wednesday’s game as a senior. He may however return next year to play. He has petitioned the NCAA for an additional year of eligibility. The NCAA has not decided and has given no time table as to when they will have a decision, so the Mustangs chose to honor Agau in case this game was his last home game.
  • SEEN AT THE GAME: Former President and First Lady, George and Laura Bush.
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