MUSTANGS’ LOSING STREAK GOES TO FOUR GAMES

by Dan M | Posted on Sunday, February 10th, 2019

 

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BY:  Dic Humphrey                                                                                                                                                                MEMBER:  United States Basketball Writers Association

UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas – SMU’s losing streak grew to four games Sunday afternoon in Moody Coliseum as the Central Florida Knights slapped a 71-65 beating on the Mustangs.  The Knights’ big center, 7’-6” Tacko Fall scored early to get UCF out front and tenaciously guarded the rim to put SMU into an out of the ordinary game plan.  Aubrey Dawkins led all scorers in the game with 26 points to pick up UCF’s offense when SMU shut down Fall on the offensive end.  

UCF keeps their hopes alive for the conference regular season championship and an NCAA Tournament bid as they move to 17-5 overall and 7-3 in conference.  The Ponies drop to 12-11 for the season and 4-7 in conference play, as they have lost not only four in a row, but also six of their last seven games.  

The Knights started fast running out to an early nine point lead at 14-5.  Fall was dominating on both ends of the court.  Defensively, Fall altered shots forcing SMU to rely on their outside game.  The Mustangs attempted 25 three point shots (out of 36 total shots) in the first half, making six.  Fall put in 10 points in the first nine minutes.  

The Mustangs rallied back to briefly take a lead at 22-20.  It didn’t last long – exactly 54 seconds, as the Knights out-scored SMU 16-6 to finish the half with a 36-28 lead.  It proved to be the Mustangs’ only lead of the game.

In the second half, UCF started fast pushing the lead to 12 points in just over two minutes.  They recaptured that 12 point lead twice more, but SMU cut the lead into single digits 4.5 minutes into the half, and the Knights never again led by a double digit margin.  Three times, the Mustangs cut the lead to one possession, but they never could capitalize to tie or take the lead.  

UCF Head Coach Johnny Dawkins said about holding off the Mustangs when they got close, “I think it was our experience.  We have some guys that have been in that situation before, and they kind of know what they need to do.”

The Mustangs played most of the game without Jahmal McMurray, their leading scorer and fourth leading scorer in the conference.  McMurray played 5-1/2 minutes late in the first half and did not see action in the second half.  He did not score. 

“He was late for practice yesterday,” SMU Head Coach Tim Jankovich said about McMurray.  “That was a big part of it.  And it’s been hard for him to practice.  Two days before the game, he’s only practiced once because he’s a little dinged up.”  His not playing Sunday sounded like more of a disciplinary action than an injury when Jankovich later added, “We can’t loosen up on the things we stand for.”

Jimmy Whitt, Jr. led the Mustangs with 23 points, his career high.  Isiaha Mike hit 18 points and led the Ponies with 10 rebounds to record his first double-double at SMU.  Ethan Chargois chipped in with 11 points.  The Mustangs shot 37 times from beyond the three point arc dealing with Fall in the middle and trailing in the game.  That’s the most three point shots for SMU in any game this season.

For UCF, Aubrey Dawkins, the son of UCF Head Coach Johnny Dawkins, led all scorers in the game with 26.  Fall failed to score in the second half to finish with 10 points.  Collin Smith was the other double digit scorer for the Knights with 18.  Smith completed a double-double with 10 rebounds.

Coach Dawkins was definitely proud of his son, saying “I thought he was big for us.  He made some talented plays for us.  And we needed it.  I’m glad he stepped for us.”

The schedule doesn’t get any easier for SMU.  They travel to Philadelphia to face the Temple Owls Wednesday (February 13).  Temple’s Head Coach Fran Dunphy is one of the most respected coaches in college basketball, and he is retiring at the end of the season.  The team badly wants to send him out with an NCAA Tournament appearance, so this game is a must win.  The Owls are 7-4 in conference play, after getting upset at Tulsa this weekend.  Their win total includes the only loss sustained by Houston this season.  They are 17-7 overall.  Game time is 6:00 PM Central/7:00 PM Eastern, and the game will be televised on ESPN3.

NOTABLE:

  • SEEN AT THE GAME:  Former President and First Lady, George and Laura Bush.
  • SMU is 8-3 this year in games played with Jarrey Foster in the lineup and 4-8 in games in which Foster did not play.
  • The official paid attendance Sunday was 5,989.  That brings the season total to 86,068 for 15 games, which is 918 per game fewer than last season’s per game average.  The Mustangs however should break the 100,000 mark with three home games remaining.  
  • SMU leads the all-time series with UCF 11-7 including 7-2 at Moody Coliseum. 
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