BROWN ERA OPENS WITH WITH WIN
DALLAS, Texas – The first edition of SMU basketball in the Larry Brown era beat Loyola Marymount Sunday night in Moody Coliseum, 73-58. The Ponies out-hustled and out-shot LMU to win their season opener. LMU’s record moved to 1-1 with the loss.
There is no question that Larry Brown has created a stir on the Hilltop. The announced attendance was 3,578, more than last year’s average; and this crowd was expressive! They gave Brown a standing ovation just for walking out of the dressing room. They gave the team a boost with loud cheers for good plays throughout the game. In the waning moments of the game with the win secured, the crowd broke into a “Larry Brown” chant. And as the clock ran out, the crowd that had largely stayed until the final buzzer, gave the team a standing ovation. It’s just one game, way too early to say that basketball is back on the Hilltop; but it might be.
Brown admitted after the game that he was nervous. “Oh my gosh, it was a long day. Thank goodness it started at 6:00.” He was particularly worried about the team’s depth. “We’re so short handed with our numbers; I was worried about it all day.”
Part of the “numbers” problem is freshman Blaise Mbargorba, a highly regarded 6”-11” post man. Mbargorba has shoulder problems, and Brown told the media after that game that Mbargorba is probably lost for the season. The Mustangs likely will have matchup problems without him against teams with a big post presence.
Brown said he had stressed, “Effort, defense and rebounding. I think we did those things well.” In summation about the game, Brown said, “Great support in the building. Great effort from our kids. We beat a pretty darn good basketball team.”
SMU opened by scoring the first five points of the game. LMU came back to take the lead by scoring the next seven. It was nip and tuck over the first eight minutes, as the Ponies held a 17-15 lead with 11:43 remaining until halftime. From there, the Mustang lead steadily grew to nine at 31-22. SMU and LMU traded baskets over the final five minutes as the Ponies took that nine point lead (35-26) to the halftime dressing room.
In the second half, the Mustangs quickly pushed the lead into double digits and led by 12 four minutes into the half. LMU chipped away at the lead, cutting it to as few as six at one point. The Mustangs kept hustling though and pulled away at the end, to secure the 15 point win. Much of the late scoring damage came from the free throw line, as SMU ended the evening with a 25 – 30 performance from the charity stripe, including 20 – 24 in the second half.
Brown largely played the same players that Matt Doherty had. Nick Russell was the only player that saw material playing time Sunday that didn’t play last year, as he sat out the season as a transfer from Kansas State. This team however looks far different than last year’s. Gone is the slow paced Princeton offense. Gone is the matchup zone defense. This team hustled the entire game, took the ball to the basket, and rebounded better than recent editions of the Mustangs. They played man-for-man defense the entire game, save and except four possessions, and up tempo on the offensive end. The most obvious difference though is that this team played with confidence.
All five starters for the Mustangs scored in double digits, with Russell leading the charge with 19. Ryan Manuel was next with 14, followed by Shawn Williams (12), Jalen Jones (11) and Cannen Cunningham 10. It was Cunningham’s first collegiate game in double digits. Jones also chipped in with 11 rebounds for the first double-double of his college career.
In the post -game media session, Jones commented on the double-double, “I like the system. I like the new coach.”
Williams, who played locally at Duncanville High School, played one of the better games in his collegiate career. “The work we did this summer got me comfortable. I’m excited! We have a good team this year.”
Brown also credited former coach Matt Doherty for the talent base he took over. “Matt recruited high character kids. We’re playing a different style. They have not disappointed me in how they listen.” Hopefully for SMU fans, this team will keep listening and keep getting better.
SMU plays again next Thursday in Ft. Worth against TCU. The annual rematch of former conference rivals will be televised on Fox Sports Southwest at 7:00 PM. TCU also has new leadership with Trent Johnson as the head coach. Johnson is no stranger to Mustang fans as he once coached Nevada when Nevada and SMU were members of the Western Athletic Conference.