UCF DOUSES SMU’s TOURNAMENT HOPES

by Dan M | Posted on Thursday, March 5th, 2020

Image result for UCF vs SMU March 4 2020Mustangs’ Second Half Comeback Falls Short

BY:  Dic Humphrey                                                                                                                                                                         MEMBER:  United States Basketball Writers Association

The Central Florida Knights put a significant road block in the Mustangs’ hopes of post-season play beyond the conference tournament with a 61-58 win on their home court – the Addition Financial Arena in Orlando, Florida.  The Knights quickly took charge by scoring the first 19 points of the games and held off a fierce second half Mustang comeback to hold on to the three point victory.  SMU falls to 19-10 overall and 9-8 in conference play, while UCF improves to 15-14 and 6-11. 

The Mustangs unquestionably came out flat.  They looked hung over from last Saturday’s disappointing loss to Wichita State a game in which they led by 24 points with less than 15 minutes to play.  There was little energy on offense or defense.  There was awful shooting with as many air ball shots as baskets made in the first half – four of each.  SMU’s offense relies heavily on three point baskets, but made none in seven first half attempts.  There were eight turnovers.  The Knights led 33-14 at intermission, and that’s the fewest points the Mustangs have scored in the first half this year.  

The second half started much better for SMU.  They knocked down the first seven points, and trimmed the lead to 10 points at the 14:14 mark (38-28).  The Mustangs were clearly more energetic defensively to key the rebound.  SMU pressed, and it had a positive effect for the Ponies, and UCF became more tentative on offense.  In fact, Central Florida never seemed to regain the good offensive flow they had in the first half.  Plus, the early SMU run took the crowd out of the game.

The Ponies actually took two leads in the game – 49-48 at the 6:11 mark and 58-56 with 1:47 left.  From there, the Mustangs did not score again.  Central Florida took a three point lead by making five of six free throws.  With less than 30 seconds left in regulation, UCF made an errant pass to give SMU a chance to tie with a three point basket.  The Mustangs called a timeout with 16 seconds left to set up a play, but nothing went smoothly when they took the court.  Tyson Jolly forced an awkward three-point attempt at the buzzer which missed badly to end the game.    

“The second half effort was tremendous, absolutely tremendous,” SMU Head Coach Tim Jankovich said in his post-game radio interview on KAAM 770 AM.  “To take the lead from that first half.  I’m very proud of that.  We couldn’t make a basket (in the first half).  That got us in a huge hole.  But (we) played great the second half.  Just tremendous to climb that whole hill (and) take the lead.  Unfortunately, we missed a couple of block outs.  That was big.  We needed to not to give them extra possessions right there.  It came down to the very end.  Sometimes a play goes your way; sometimes it doesn’t.  Great effort.  But a very, very tough pill to swallow in the fact that we had taken the lead and did have a great chance to win the game.  It would have been an amazing, amazing win with that comeback.”          

Four Mustangs scored in double digits.  Jolly led with 14, while Kendric Davis and Isiaha Mike each scored 13.  Feron Hunt came off the SMU bench for the 12th time in the last 13 games to score 10.  Hunt also led the Mustangs with seven rebounds.  The Mustangs were out-rebounded by their opponent for the seventh straight game.

UCF Forward Collin Smith scored 19 to lead the Knights.  Darin Green, Jr. with 13, and Brandon Mahan with 12 were the other double digit scorers for Central Florida.  Smith was their leading rebounder with seven boards.  The Knights grabbed 13 offensive rebounds on 30 missed shots (43.3%) that led to 14 second chance points.

SMU ends the regular season this Saturday in Tampa against the South Florida Bulls.  These two teams met January 1 in the conference opening game for both.  SMU won that afternoon in Moody Coliseum by the score of 82-64.  South Florida has a 13-7 record for the season and a 6-11 record in conference.  Game time is 7:00 PM Eastern/6:00 PM Central, and the game will be televised on ESPN3.

NOTABLE:

  • The Mustangs were 16-16 from the free throw line.
  • The loss mathematically erases the slim chance the Mustangs had of being the number four seed in the conference tournament which would have enabled them to receive a first round bye.  SMU can do no better than be the five seed and will open tournament play on Thursday, March 12. 
  • SMU travelled back to Dallas after the game, and will return to Florida Friday for the South Florida game.
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