MUSTANGS AT THE HALFWAY MARK
UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas – Larry Brown’s first edition of SMU basketball completed non-conference play Wednesday night with a 59-56 loss to Wyoming. It was a nip and tuck game all the way as neither team ever led by more than five points. SMU’s Ryan Manuel hit a layup with a minute remaining to tie the game at 56, but Wyoming hit a free throw and made a layup after a steal as SMU played for the last shot. The Mustangs led the undefeated Cowboys at the half, but Wyoming came back to keep their perfect record intact at 13-0. The Cowboys are one of just four remaining undefeated division one college basketball teams. The Mustangs record fell to 10-5 for the season.
SMU coach Larry Brown was definitely disappointed in his team’s late game execution. “Four of our last five possessions were turnovers.” He noted they had nine assists while committing 15 turnovers. “You can’t play games where you have more turnovers than assists. You can’t play games where when it’s winning time, you don’t come up with a loose ball, get a rebound or make a stop. At the end of the day, their kid made all the winning plays. Wyoming didn’t foul and didn’t give up a lot of second shots. We gave ourselves a chance to win. We gotta do a better job as coaches to put us in a position where our guys don’t fear failure. That’s the bottom line. I can’t tell you how disappointed we are. This was a winnable game if we do things that winning teams do. This program hasn’t done that. We gotta get over that. We gotta do what we do to the best of our ability and let it happen. As coaches we gotta get us where we execute better and not worry about the result.”
Jalen Jones, the Mustangs leading scorer and rebounder on the season, played his worst game of the year as he failed to score in the first half and finished with just six points on the night before fouling out. “He’s gonna get better, I just know it,” Brown said. Arlington’s Cannen Cunningham had perhaps his best game of the year, recording his first career double-double with14 points and 11 rebounds. “Cannen every day gets better. He never takes a bad shot. He tries to do the right thing. He’s the most improved kid on our team.” Nick Russell led the Mustangs in scoring with 17 points.
Almost half the Mustangs schedule is in the books as Conference-USA play begins this Sunday when Tulsa comes to town. The conference opener for both teams will be televised on FSN-Southwest at 7:00 PM. Tulsa’s new coach is Danny Manning, the star player on Larry Brown’s 1988 Kansas team that won the national championship. Manning was named the Final Four’s most outstanding player that year.
“I’m hating that,” Brown said about coaching against his former player. “I knew him when he was five. I coached his dad. I hate coaching against friends. I want this game to be over. But I’m proud of Danny. There’s no doubt in my mind he’s going to be a phenomenal coach.”
The Mustangs have proven to be tough at Moody Coliseum with a 5-1 record. So far the short rotation of the starting five – all returning players from last year’s team, a gimpy London Giles, and limited help from three freshmen has held up. The Mustangs have played a tough schedule with just six home games among the fifteen played so far. They look ready to for the task of the second half of the season.
Brown is optimistic going into league play. “The guys we have I really believe are trying to do the right thing. We gotta get them to understand the great teams – they rebound, they defend, they take care of the ball, they don’t give up easy baskets; and we gotta do a much better job in those areas. I’m confident we will.”
After this Sunday’s game against Tulsa, the Ponies go to Houston to play the Cougars, then return the next weekend for a Saturday matinee (2:00 PM) against Tulane.