SMU OUTLASTS YALE

by Dan M | Posted on Monday, November 23rd, 2015

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BY:  Dic Humphrey

UNIVERSTIY PARK, Texas – The SMU Men’s basketball team ran their record to 3-0 Sunday afternoon with a 71-69 victory over the Yale Bulldogs.  Yale dropped to 3-1 with the loss.  The Bulldogs led the game for more than 26 minutes, but in the end, SMU’s superior depth and strength inside carried the day.

The Bulldogs played a marvelous first half to take an eight point lead (40-32) at intermission.   Yale made six three point baskets to none for SMU and hit four more free throws to take a strong hold on the game.  The Bulldogs scored the first basket of the second half to push the lead to 10 points, which was their largest lead of the game.

“Yale played great,” associate head coach Tim Jankovich said.  “They played a great first half.  They executed.  A lot of times we were guarding very well, but they still made a basket.”

Makai Mason was literally Yale’s big dog scoring the basketball.  He knocked down 16 in the first half, which included a pair of made three point shots.  The sophomore guard finished with 24 points to lead all scorers in the game.

After getting down by double digits, the Mustangs began their comeback.  It took almost nine minutes to tie the game at 49, and SMU didn’t re-take the lead until the 8:35 mark, when a pair of Jordan Tolbert made free throws gave the Mustangs a 53-51 lead.  It was a lead SMU never relinquished.

Jankovich said about the comeback, “We played a very good second half.  We did a lot of good things.  Sterling (Brown) got very aggressive.  That just kind of got us on a roll.  Talk about a big lift for us.”

He said about their strategy, “The big emphasis at halftime was that we’ve got to pressure more.  We made an adjustment to start trapping the ball.  That paid off a lot.  I’ve got to give Keith (Frazier) a lot of credit.  Keith guarded Mason the second half and made his life a heck of a lot tougher.   His defense in the second half was one of the big, big factors of our being able to pull that game out.”

SMU ran the lead to as many as seven points late in the game.  They seemed to have the game wrapped up with a seven point lead at the one minute mark, but the scrappy Bulldogs didn’t give up.  The Mustangs kept the door open by twice missing the front end of a one and one free throw opportunity.  The lead was actually down to 70-69 when Yale’s Justin Sears hit a three point shot with less than a second remaining.  A quick foul kept the game going, but Tolbert made a free throw before the clock ran out to make the final margin two points at 71-69.

There were a host of contributors for the Ponies.  Five players scored in double digits, led by Tolbert with 17 in just 22 minutes of playing time.  Markus Kennedy and Frazier were next with 12 points each, while Nic Moore and Sterling Brown added 11.  Kennedy turned in a double-double by pulling down 13 rebounds to go with his points.  Three Mustangs recorded four assists.

The Mustangs’ advantage inside was evident by the points in the paint.  SMU had 48 to just 16 for Yale.  Also, the defensive pressure that Jankovich referred to was apparent in the points off turnovers stat.  SMU led 23-9.

SMU’s depth proved to be vital too.  Yale’s starting five played 148 of the 200 game minutes, and no one off the Yale bench played as many as 20 minutes.  The Mustangs simply wore the Bulldogs down in the second half.

“The best games are when you are not shooting the ball well and you’re a little out of sync and everything is going wrong and you’re getting frustrated,” Jankovich said.  “I loved this game.  Was it fun?  No.  Did we play great?  No.  But it showed that we played with a lot of resilience.  I thought more than anything else we won on grit.  Marcus and Jordan in the second half went to work on the defensive end and gave us some easy baskets.”

SMU is now 4-0 all time against Yale.  The Mustangs are off for Thanksgiving week.  Their next game is at home next Sunday as they play Brown at 2:00 PM (Central).  One of Brown’s starters is guard Steven Spieth, who is the younger brother of professional golfer Jordan Spieth.

AND ALSO:

  • The SMU men’s soccer team advanced to the “Sweet 16” of the NCAA Tournament with a 1-0 victory over Denver.  Junior Stanton Garcia scored the goal with six minutes left in overtime, his sixth goal of the season.  SMU improved their record to 15-2-4 for the season.  The Mustangs will now face number four seeded Akron on Sunday, November 29 in Akron, Ohio.  Akron is 16-3-2 for the season after beating Rutgers 6-1 in the second round.
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