by Dan M | Posted on Monday, December 31st, 2012

BY:  Dic Humphrey

UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas – Brian Bernardi came off the SMU bench to score a career high 20 points and lead the Mustangs to an 72-53 win over Furman University Sunday.  It was SMU’s 10th win of the season against four losses, and dropped Furman’s record to 3-9.  SMU playing their first home game in more than a month was never seriously challenged after scoring the first 13 points of the game.

Furman is a private school in Greenville, South Carolina and is a member of the Southern Conference.  The school has the reputation of having students that wear Polo shirts and drive BMW’s, much as SMU is perceived in Dallas.  On this day in a battle of supposed beamer drivers, the Ponies proved to be the superior basketball team.  Furman hit ten three-point shots, including five from senior Bryant Irwin who led the Paladins with 15 points, to stay in contention Sunday night.

After the Mustangs jumped out to the early 13 point lead, Furman came back to get as close as six points; but the Ponies scored nine of the final 11 points of the first half to take a 15 point lead at 38-23, their largest lead of the game at that point.  In the second half, the Mustangs, lead grew to as much as 21 points and never dipped below 10.

SMU coach Larry Brown has been playing with a short hand all season.  He has just six returning players from last year’s team one of which, London Giles, is injured and did not play Sunday.  Brown said after the game about Giles, “When I see Cotton (Giles) in practice, I don’t feel like he’s physically ready to play.”

Brown has been looking for a couple of freshmen to step up and claim a spot in the regular playing rotation, as the starters are logging too many minutes.  Sunday, all but Nick Russell who fouled out, played at least 30 minutes.  Bernardi went a long way to staking a claim to being in the regular rotation with his 20 point performance that included 4-7 from three point land.

Three Mustangs joined Bernardi in the double digit scoring column.  Jalen Jones had 14, Cannen Cunningham 13, and Shawn Williams 10.  Cunningham had a game high nine rebounds to fall just a rebound shy of recording a double-double.  Jones, the Mustangs leading scorer and rebounder, pulled down eight boards to miss by two of hitting his team leading fifth double-double of the year.

The Mustangs play one more non-conference game before starting Conference-USA play.  SMU faces Wyoming Wednesday night in Moody Coliseum prior to opening conference play with a home game against Tulsa next Sunday evening; a game that will be televised on FSN.




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