SMU Finding Offensive Balance Heading Into TCU Clash

by Dan M | Posted on Tuesday, December 4th, 2018

December 27, 2017:   Moody Coliseum Photo by Vladimir Cherry

By Andy Lohman

Not even two minutes into the Dec. 2 win over Oral Roberts, SMU men’s basketball forced the Golden Eagles to take a timeout. Quick, fluid ball movement had opened up the floor for junior guard Jimmy Whitt Jr. and sophomore forward Isiaha Mike to knock down three-point shots and give the Mustangs a 6-0 lead they would never relinquish.

Out of the timeout, senior guard Jahmal McMurray drained SMU’s third straight three to start the game. He was one of six different Mustangs who made a three-pointer, and one of four in double figures.

After an inconsistent start to the season, SMU is riding a four-game win streak into Wednesday, Dec. 5’s clash with TCU at Moody Coliseum behind a balanced offense.

“I feel like moving the ball, when more guys touch it we’re definitely more efficient,” senior guard Nat Dixon said. “That’s the good thing about our team, we know everybody can score. We believe in everybody so when we share the ball it’s really dangerous.”

Six different Mustangs have reached double-figure scoring during the win streak, and during the past three games SMU’s top two scorers were separated by just one point. Sophomore forward Ethan Chargois lead SMU with 17 against Oral Roberts, while McMurray added 16. McMurray’s 19 points and Mike’s 18 paced the Mustangs against McNeese, and McMurray and Chargois poured in 18 and 17, respectively, against Lamar.

It’s no coincidence that the Mustangs’ offensive balance and ball movement has improved in the three games that senior guard Jarrey Foster has appeared in this season. In 22.0 minutes per game since returning from an ACL tear, he has averaged 8.3 points and 2.7 rebounds, but his biggest impact has been maximizing his teammates’ talents. Foster’s poise, athleticism and experience within the SMU system were an immediate boost to the Mustangs’ overall game.

“I’m amazed he’s doing as well as he is. Basketball is not a game where you take a 10-month vacation,” head coach Tim Jankovich said. “You could see our players changed when he started playing. You could see a different look, just a presence. Sometimes just a presence can change a team. He has certainly been a tremendous shot in the arm for this club.”

After totaling 15 assists across both games in Cancun, SMU has recorded at least 16 assists the past three games, including a season-high 24 against McNeese.

“I feel like Jarrey has definitely helped with that,” Chargois said of SMU’s improved ball movement. “Him coming back, with his experience, I feel like has gotten the ball moving more. On offense we’re moving more fluidly.”

The Mustangs are not only balanced in the players that score, but also in the ways that they score points. SMU hit six of its first eight three-point attempts against Oral Roberts, opening up looks down low later in the game.

Late in the first half against Oral Roberts, freshman guard CJ White drained a three from the top of the key. On the next offensive possession, with the Golden Eagles defense drawn out, White threw a clever pass to Chargois, who finished an easy lay-up.

“We don’t script how many threes we’re going to take, we just have offensive concepts and depending on how you guard it, it will lead, hopefully, to something positive,” Jankovich said. “I learned this a long time ago: a defense can be strong inside or strong outside. It’s almost impossible to be really strong outside and really strong inside.”

SMU spreads out defenses by using big men that can stretch the floor by taking threes. Players like Chargois, Mike and freshman forward Feron Hunt present match-up problems for opposing defenses. Hunt has been impressive in his young career, averaging 6.9 points and 6.8 rebounds in 20.8 minutes per game.

“First of all, Feron is not a good athlete, he’s an elite athlete. But on top of that, I think he has an elite heart. He really wants to be great and he really wants to win,” Jankovich said. “He’ll sacrifice and I love that about him. That’s why I think he has the chance to be a great, great player one day.”

With such a variety of offensive weapons (eight different Mustangs have made a three-point field goal this season), SMU’s offensive confidence is high ahead of their rivalry match-up against TCU.

“You need to have a number of confident weapons and I think that’s happening now. Isiaha, obviously, is very confident now. Now we have Jarrey, who’s a tremendous player, who’s gaining his real confidence,” Jankovich said. “I just think that over the course of a season you need to have five or six guys on a given night that might get you 14 or 15 points or more and they can’t just key on one or two guys. I think that’s coming and I’m very happy about that.”

TCU enters Wednesday’s game at 5-1, its only loss coming to the senior-laden Lipscomb team that beat SMU on Nov. 17. This will be the first road game of the season for the Horned Frogs, who are receiving votes in the AP Top 25 poll. The game will air on ESPNU with tipoff slated for 9 p.m.

 

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