Pony’s on win streak; Attendance down

by Dan M | Posted on Friday, November 30th, 2018

image_handler.aspx

BY DIC HUMPHREY
DHUMPHREY24@GMAIL.COM

UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas – The SMU Men’s Basketball team closed
out the month of November having played a fourth of their schedule and holding a 5-3 won/loss record. They ended the month with home games this week beating Lamar on Tuesday and McNeese State on Thursday to finish November on a three game winning streak and put an upbeat end to an otherwise disappointing start to the season.
Jarrey Foster, arguably the best player on the team and the only
player remaining in the program that was recruited by previous Head
Coach Larry Brown, took the court for the first time this season
against Lamar. He’s been sidelined while rehabbing from knee surgery.
Foster wore a significant knee brace on his leg, and when he wasn’t in
the game, he was often pedaling a stationary bike behind the SMU
bench.
Foster didn’t start Tuesday’s game and the Mustangs fell behind
over the first 3-1/2 minutes. That’s when Foster took the court to a
standing ovation and immediately gave the team a spark. Two minutes
later, SMU took their first lead, and they never gave it up. Foster
scored 11 points in 18 minutes on the night as the Mustangs breezed to
a79-64 win.
The Lamar game was the best game the team has played this year.
Five players scored in double digits. They out rebounded Lamar 32-30
and had 23 assists on 31 made baskets. The only troublesome stat was
their free throw shooting, as they barely hit 50% at 9-16.
On Thursday night, the Mustangs finished off the month with a
91-59 win over McNeese State. They made quick work of the Cowboys as
they never trailed in the game, took a 40-24 lead to the halftime
locker room and put the game away quickly with a 27-6 run to open the
second half.
Isiaha Mike had his best game as a Mustang scoring 18 points.
Ethan Chargois, Jahmal McMurray, and Jimmy Whitt, Jr. also scored in
double digits.   Whitt added 10 rebounds and 10 assists to turn in the
first “triple double” by a Mustang in 19 years.
For the season, McMurray leads the team in scoring at 19.0 points
per game.  He scored a career high 34 points against Western Carolina,
and was named to the All-Tournament team in the Cancun Classic.  Prior
to the start of the season, McMurray was named second team in
pre-season All Conference balloting.  He’s living up to expectations.
Chargois is second on the team in scoring.  The sophomore is
almost unrecognizable from last year.  He’s lost a considerable amount
of weight and looks almost slender.  He’s averaging 14.6 points per
game and has recorded two double-doubles, the first two of his career.
Despite the good week, the 5-3 record is disappointing with the
cupcake non-conference schedule (Lamar and McNeese for example are
ranked 252nd and 297th in this week’s Sagarin ratings.)  Two of the
three losses came at Moody Coliseum.  They are only the second and
third losses in home non-conference games since the 2012-2013 season,
the last before Moody underwent a $50 million renovation.
Moody Coliseum re-opened after that renovation on January 4,
2014.  The Mustangs played and beat the University of Connecticut that
afternoon, 74-65 before a raucous and rowdy home crowd. It was a
great win over the eventual National Champions that season.
Thus was born the term “Moody Magic”. The arena was downsized
from slightly less than 9,000 seats to slightly less than 7,000.
There was a sellout that day, and with the smaller seating capacity,
season tickets were in high demand. In one season since, literally
every ticket was sold on a season ticket basis. Students often camped
out overnight in line to get the allotted student tickets.
The fans came. The place was loud and intimidating to SMU
opponents. It was also the “in place” to be. Celebrities came and
were recognized, the most prominent of which are former President and
First Lady, George and Laura Bush.
The intimidation of Moody showed.  Over seasons beginning with the
reopening of Moody, the Mustangs lost just four home games through the
2016-2017 season. They took a 22 game home winning streak into the
2017-2018 season and extended it to 33 games before losing to Temple
last January 10.  Last year’s team suffered significant injuries and
lost 10 of the final 12 games.
Attendance has nosedived along with losing games at a faster
pace. The per game average attendance is down about 1,100 per game so
far this season 5,529 to 6,656, with a third of the home season in the
books.  The smallest Moody crowd last season was 6,326.  The largest
attendance at a home game this season is 5,623.
Perhaps even worse, many fans with tickets aren’t coming.  The
announced attendance is tickets sold, not the turnstile count.  The
actual number of people that are attending games is much less than the
announced attendance figures.  Based on an “eyeball estimate” the
actual number of people in Moody appeared to be less than 3,000 this
week’s games.
There are three forces at work reducing crowds.  The program lost
a large number of season ticket holders from the price increase and
re-seating process. The number is probably close to 1,000.
Number two, the team simply isn’t as good as it was when Larry
Brown was recruiting the talent.  Brown was recruiting top 100 high
school players and better.  24/7 Sports ranks the two three star
players the Mustangs signed in November at number 357 and 424
nationally.
Thirdly, the schedule is pitiful. TCU was ranked at the
beginning of the year, but has fallen out. No other non-conference
opponent on the home schedule will get a whiff of the Top 25. On top
of that, the conference is off considerably, so there isn’t much
attraction there. No team is ranked, and Houston, Central Florida and
Connecticut were the only teams receiving votes this week. The AAC is
likely to be just a one or two bid league when the NCAA Tournament
rolls around.
The result is tickets can be found cheap.  StubHub had tickets
for as little as $5.00 for Thursday’s game, and there were plenty of
tickets listed for $10.00 or less.
With the lessened attendance, the noisy and rowdy crowds have
disappeared.  Moody is no longer intimidating to opponents. One wag
summed it up nicely in a tweet this week saying “From Moody Magic to
Moody Mausoleum”.
As for where the team stands, it’s still early to put a lot of
certainty into predictions. However, the Sagarin Ratings have SMU as
the 154th best team in the nation and the ninth best team in the
conference.  Team Rankings ranked the Mustangs slightly better.
After the Lamar game, they placed the Mustangs at 119th in the country
and seventh in the conference.  They project the Mustangs to finish
16-14 with an 8-10 record in conference play.
The first quarter of the season may look disappointing, but
things can change.  Head Coach Tim Jankovich, who is getting a lot
of heat in the twitter universe for the team’s performance, said after
Thursday’s game that he feels the team is getting better. He
particularly felt their confidence is growing and cited the return of
Jarrey Foster as extremely uplifting. Everett Ray is another
scholarship player that is dealing with an injury. He hasn’t played
yet this year, and neither has also injured walk-ons James Pyle and
Luke Wilfong. A healthier team will hopefully be a better team.
The current four-game home stand continues this Sunday when the
Mustangs host Oral Roberts at 2:00 PM.  The best opponent on the home
non-conference schedule comes to town next Wednesday – TCU.  Game time
is 9:00 PM.
RECRUITING:  SMU announced the signing of Bryce Cook and Darius
McBride to start their 2019 class.  McBride is a 6’-4” shooting guard
from Austin Westlake High School.  He averaged 19.8 points and 6.8
rebounds in his junior season. Cook is a 5’-9” point guard from Grand
Prairie. Unfortunately, he suffered a stroke last weekend.
FOOTBALL UPDATE:
• This week, James Proche was named to the American Athletic
Conference All-Conference first team. Proche had 93 receptions,
including 12 for touchdowns, for 1,199 yards. Linebacker Richard Moore
garnered Honorable Mention accolades.

Tags

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>