MUSTANGS HIJACK PIRATES

by Dan M | Posted on Thursday, January 3rd, 2019

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BY:  Dic Humphrey                                                                       Member – United States Basketball Writers Association

UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas – The SMU Mustangs’ Men’s basketball team opened American Athletic Conference play Wednesday night with an 83-54 victory over the East Carolina Pirates.  ECU started fast, but the Mustangs finished the first half strong and put the game away by continuing the run to start the second half.  SMU has now won seven of their last eight games to improve to 9-4 overall and 1-0 in conference play.  ECU falls to 7-6 and 0-1.

East Carolina played a spirited first half and led for almost eight minutes.  They led SMU 18-15 with nine minutes left in the half; but the Mustangs pulled away from there, outscoring the Pirates 20-7 to take a 10 point lead to the halftime locker room at 35-25.  The Pirates never led again.

Jimmy Whitt said about the first half rally, “I think it (the rally) was just playing harder.  I thought we didn’t come out with a lot of energy.  They played way harder than we did the first couple of minutes.  We just came out flat.  That was the main thing we talked about in the huddle.  We just needed to play hard.  And I thought we picked it up.”

Head coach Tim Jankovich credited the slow start to having rust from the Christmas break of 10 days since their last game.    

The Mustangs effectively put the game away early to start the second half, by opening with a 15-1 run over the first four minutes.  Jahmal McMurray led the push by scoring 11 of the 15 Mustang points.  SMU’s lead grew to as many as 30 points at 60-30 with 11 minutes left in the game.

McMurray led all scorers in the game with 20 points.  It was the ninth game this year that he has scored in double digits and the third time he has scored 20.  The other four Mustangs in double digits were Jimmy Whitt, Jr. (17), Isiah Mike and Nat Dixon with 11 each, and Ethan Chargois with 10.  Whitt had his second strong shooting game in a row.  He made seven of eight shots after making 10 of 15 shots in route to scoring 22 points in the last game against Cornell.

Freshman Feron Hunt came off the SMU bench to pull down a game high 12 rebounds.  It was his first double digit rebounding game in college, and he continues to lead the Mustangs in rebounding with 7.5 per game.  

A key to the game was holding East Carolina’s super freshman Jayden Gardener down.  He came into the game averaging 19 points and 11.8 rebounds per game.  SMU Head Coach Tim Jankovich said after the game, “We obviously did double team him.  We tried to keep the ball away from him.  Our number one emphasis was no angles”.  

Gardner finished with 16 points and seven rebounds, but 11 of those points came in the second half when the outcome of the game was basically decided.  The only other Pirate to score in double digits was Tyler Foster off the bench with 11.

As for the team in general, Jankovich said, “We are much better.  We have a chance to be an outstanding team I think before the season is over if we keep improving, if we stay hungry, if everybody buys into believing the things that make you a championship level program.”

The Mustangs have a quick turnaround as they next play Friday night in New Orleans against the Tulane Green Wave.  Tulane is 4-9 for the season and 0-1 in conference play after losing at Cincinnati Wednesday night 93-61.  Game time is 6:00 PM (Central), and the game will be televised on ESPN2.

NOTABLE:

  • SMU now holds a 15-4 edge over East Carolina all time, and the Mustangs have won 10 straight over the Pirates.
  • All 11 Mustangs dressed for the game saw action, the most players to appear in an SMU game this year.  Walk-on James Pyle made his first appearance after missing the first 12 games with an injury.
  • The SMU coaches wore green ties to bring awareness to the Fight for Literacy.  This is the fifth straight year that SMU has participated in the Coaches for Literacy event.  Jankovich said, “The Wilfongs, Jonathan and now Luke really have spearheaded this.  (They) basically brought it to us, and now lots and lots of teams across the country are doing it and bringing awareness to an important problem.”
  • Jankovich also said after the game that there is some thought being given to petition the NCAA for another year of eligibility for Jahmal McMurray.  He would not comment though on the likelihood of that being successful.
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