A new day For the Ponies

by Dan M | Posted on Thursday, March 8th, 2018

920x920By: Dic Humphrey                                                                                                                    Member USBWA

The conference post-season tournaments represent a fresh start for all teams. It’s essentially a new season with everyone starting at 0-0 and chasing the prize of an NCAA Tournament bid. For SMU, it was a new day. The team that took the court Wednesday afternoon in Orlando’s Amway Center in no way looked like the one that limped through the second half of conference play at 1-8.

They came out with good energy and shot well to take charge early and dominate the Connecticut Huskies. The Mustangs took a 19 point lead to the halftime locker room at 42-23, in route to an 80-73 win to advance to the second round. The Mustangs face number one seed Connecticut Friday at 12:00 Noon Eastern/11:00 AM Central in a re-match of last year’s conference finals game. ESPN2 will televise.

The first half could not have gone any better for SMU. They hit seven three point shots and committed just three turnovers, shooting 52% from the field.   Jahmal McMurray led with 12 points and Akoy Agau put in 10 to spearhead the effort. All seven scholarship players appeared in the game and scored.

The second half was a game of runs. Connecticut came out with good energy opening with a 12-2 run to cut the lead into single digits. The Mustangs soon answered with an 11-0 run to seemingly put the game away at 60-39. But the Huskies weren’t dead yet. They put together a 9-0 run to get back into it.

The Mustangs again seemingly had the game in hand with a 14 point lead and just 3:30 remaining. UCONN had other ideas. They furiously finished the game with 19 points and twice cut the lead to four points. SMU had the poise to make the late free throws and hang on for the win. The Mustangs made eight shots from the charity stripe in the final minute.

Akoy Agua played his best game as a Mustang, scoring a career high 21 points, knocking down a double digit total in both halves. Ben Emelogu led the Ponies with 23 points, and he also led the Mustangs with eight rebounds. Jahmal McMurray was the third Mustang in double digits with 19 points.

Christian Vital was the Huskies’ and the game’s leading scorer with 24 points. Antwoine Anderson and Terry Larrier also scored in double digits with 19 and 12 points respectively. UCONN out-rebounded SMU 37-29 and actually slightly outshot the Mustangs 46.7% to 45.6%.

For the game, SMU hit 10 three point shots and was 18-23 from the free throw line (78.3%). UCONN is a good three-point shooting team, but made just four all in the second half.

SMU Head Coach Tim Jankovich said in the post-game interview, “I am really proud of our team. Had to fight off two great runs. …give Connecticut a lot of credit. They fought their way back into the game.”

Connecticut Head Coach Kevin Ollie said, “This game started off kind of like our whole season, getting down, and then playing from behind. Once again, our guys didn’t give in, didn’t stop fighting. We got back in the game. We couldn’t get over the hump.”

SMU is 17-15 with the win, assuring a winning record for the season. UCONN finishes at 14-18, their second consecutive losing season.


  • SMU is 9-3 all-time against Connecticut. The record is 2-0 in conference tournament play.
  • Earlier this week, the AAC announced their All-Conference and All-Freshmen teams. Shake Milton was second team All-Conference, while Ethan Chargois made the All-Freshman team. Milton was also named to the All-District team by the United States Basketball Writers Association. The 10-man team was named from schools in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas.



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