PONIES MAKE IT FOUR IN A ROW

by Dan M | Posted on Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

BY:  Dic Humphrey

UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas – SMU beat Rutgers Tuesday night in Moody Coliseum 70-56, their fourth win in a row.  Markus Kennedy, who made the American Athletic Conference honor roll last week after recording a pair of double-doubles, picked up where he left off.  He recorded another double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Mustangs to the victory.  The win improved SMU’s overall record to 15-4, matching last year’s win total for the season; and it also moved them into sole possession of second place in the American Athletic Conference at 4-2, as they trail Louisville (5-1) and Cincinnati (6-0).  Rutgers fell to 8-11 for the season and 2-4 in conference play, as they completed an 0-2 road trip to Texas after losing to Houston Sunday.

“Their length and athleticism limited our game,” Rutgers’ assistant David Cox said about SMU after the game.  “That’s a very, very good, very deep, and obviously well coached team.”

The Ponies got off to a sluggish start, taking their first lead at 4-3 with more than three minutes elapsed in the game.  Once they got going, they steadily increased the margin to 10 points at 25-15 and then to  13 points, before settling for an 11 point lead at the half, 36-25.  The first half scoring was fairly evenly divided.  Nine Mustangs played, seven of which scored, including all four players off the bench.  Markus Kennedy and Ben Moore were the scoring leaders with eight points each.

In the second half, the Mustangs got off to a good start, running the lead up to 14 points in a little over three minutes.  The Scarlet Knights however, didn’t go away.  Aided by a couple of three pointers, they rallied to drop the lead under 10 points at 43-35.  SMU however steadily pulled away over the final 10 minutes.  Their largest lead of the game was 17 with just under seven minutes to play.

Tuesday’s game was the third in four days for SMU, precipitated by the make-up game with Hofstra after bad weather cancelled the original date in December.  At times in the second half, the Mustangs looked weary and ragged.  In the end though, they found the energy to put Rutgers away and extend their winning streak.  The depth of having 10 players that can play proved to be the difference again for the SMU.

Freshman Ben Moore joined Kennedy with a double digit scoring total, putting in 10 points off the bench.  Nic Moore led the Mustangs and tied the Scarlet Knights’ Myles Mack with a game high five assists.  Mack (13) and J. J. Moore (15) led Rutgers in scoring.

SMU head coach Larry Brown noted, “The value of guarding great every night gives us a chance to win games like this.”  The Mustangs held Rutgers to a 32.7% (18-55) shooting percentage.  They came into the week leading the conference and ranking second in the nation in opponents’ scoring percentage at 35.9%.  The Mustangs also recorded 11 steals, their fourth consecutive game with a double digit steals total.  The Scarlet Knights did manage to out rebound the Mustangs 34-33, which was only the second time this year SMU has not out rebounded their opponent.

The Mustangs next two games are on the road before returning to Moody Coliseum on February 1 for a 1:00 PM tilt with Memphis.  They stay in state this weekend with a 2:00 PM game against the University of Houston at Hofheinz Pavilion on Sunday afternoon, and they face South Florida for the second time in conference play next Wednesday evening in Tampa.  Both road games are scheduled to be televised on ESPN News.

NOTABLE:

  • SMU is now 10-0 at home this year.  That includes six wins at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland and four wins at the renovated Moody Coliseum.  That does NOT include an 11th win in Dallas over TCU at the American Airlines Center, which is considered a neutral site game.
  • Markus Kennedy tied career highs in points (18) and blocks (four) Tuesday night.  It was the sixth time this year that Kennedy has led the team in both points and rebounds.
  • Starting center Yanick Moreira missed his fifth straight game with a knee injury.  It was anticipated that he would miss three to six weeks when the injury occurred.  Larry Brown said after Tuesday’s game, “Yanick is our best defender of our big guys.  He’s gaining some weight.  He’s lifting weights.  I think he’ll be back sooner rather than later.”  He would not set a time table for Moreira’s return though.
  • Brown also said that he expects this team to receive an NCAA Tournament bid.
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