SMU DISPENSES TULANE
BY: Dic Humphrey
UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas – The SMU men’s basketball team improved their record to 11-7 Saturday afternoon with a 59-53 win over Tulane at Moody Coliseum. The win before a crowd of 3,123 was the first for new Mustang head coach Larry Brown in Conference-USA, running the Ponies conference record to 1-2. Tulane’s record fell to 12-5, 0-2.
The final score is deceiving as SMU held a 10 point lead at the half, quickly ran it to 14 after the break and maintained a double digit lead for a majority of the second balance of the game. Tulane scored five points in the final 13 seconds to cut the score to the margin of six points, the closest the Green Wave ever got in the second half.
It may not have been a pretty win, but after losing the first two conference games which were very winnable, Nick Russell said afterward, “It’s EXTREMELY important. It might have been an ugly game, but we got the win.”
Head Coach Larry Brown was complimentary of Tulane, saying about Tulane head coach Ed Conroy, “He’s a good coach, and he has two of the best players in the conference.” Conroy by the way is a graduate of The Citadel and a relative of The Citadel’s most famous alum, author Pat Conroy.
The two players that Brown referred to were Ricky Tarrant and Josh Davis, who combined for 39 of Tulane’s 53 points. Tarrant led all scorers in the game with 24, while Davis added 15, leaving just 14 points for the rest of the team. Davis chipped in with game high 11 rebounds to record a double-double. Russell led the Mustangs with 13 points, while Jaylen Jones, Ryan Manuel, and London Giles each added 10. It was the fourth time this year that the Mustangs had four players score in double digits.
Giles’s scoring was particularly notable. There is no question that this Mustang team is short personnel-wise with each member of the starting five often logging 30 minutes of playing time. Foul trouble forced Brown to use his bench more Saturday, and Uche Ofoegbu and Giles responded to give the team 19 and 16 minutes respectively of quality playing time off the bench. “The fouls really impacted the game,” Brown said. “Thank God that Uche (Ofoegbu) and Cotton (Giles) gave us some good minutes.” He particularly noted about Giles, “We needed him. We don’t win this game without him.”
In the first half, the Mustangs trailed Tulane 16-15 with 6:25 remaining, and proceeded to outscore Tulane 15-3 to pull away to a 10 point halftime lead. Jones led all scorers with 10 first half points. Tulane’s Tarrant (nine) and Davis (eight) tallied all but two of Tulane’s first half points, as the Mustangs held the Green Wave to 20% shooting. It was perhaps the Mustangs best defensive effort in a half this year.
Tulane maintained some chance of winning the game because of their offensive rebounding. They ended up with 15 offensive rebounds, exactly 50% of the shots they missed in the game. SMU’s defense though foiled Tulane, as they forced a season high 21 opponent turnovers. The Mustangs also blocked eight shots and had 11 steals, the second highest block total and third highest steal total this season.
The Ponies next host Southern Mississippi this Wednesday, their final home game of the month. They complete January with road games at UTEP, Central Florida and Marshall before returning home February 2 against Houston.