MUSTANGS TAKE LAS VEGAS CLASSI

by Dan M | Posted on Thursday, December 24th, 2015

SMU Logo

BY:  Dic Humphrey

The SMU Men’s basketball team continued their winning ways in Las Vegas this week by taking a pair of games to claim the championship of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic.  The wins improved number 18 SMU’s record to 11-0, the best start in Mustang basketball history.  Nic Moore fueled a second half comeback in the championship game to win the Tournament MVP Award.  Ben Moore and Jordan Tolbert also were named to the All-Tournament team.

The championship game opponent was Colorado, who had beaten Penn State to reach the finals.  The Buffaloes came into the game with an 11-1 record on the roll of an 11 game winning streak.  They received enough votes in both major polls this week to place them just outside the Top 25.  They are the biggest team the Mustangs have faced this season and proved to be the best opponent that SMU has played so far.

SMU perhaps improbably won a game of significant runs 70-66.  Consider that 70 points is the lowest point total of the season for the Mustangs.  Consider that SMU was out rebounded (38-34) for the first time this season.  Consider that SMU did not make a three point basket for the first time in two years, while their opponent made 12.

“I never thought I’d see us win a game where our guys didn’t make a three and our opponent made 12,” SMU Head Basketball Coach Larry Brown said in a post-game interview on KAAM 770 AM radio.

Colorado was smoking early as they hit the first five three point shots they attempted and built a 19-12 lead.  SMU then went on a 10-0 run to overtake the Buffaloes and ended up with a 35-30 lead at halftime.

The game was back and forth to start the second half, but with the Mustangs leading 46-40, Colorado put together a 14-0 run to claim their largest lead of the game at eight points with about 8.5 minutes left in the game.  The Mustangs clearly looked in trouble.

However, they regained the lead with a 14-1 run that began with just under seven minutes remaining.  That erased a seven point deficit to put the Mustangs in the lead by six.  SMU made six of seven free throws in the final 1:06 to ice the win.

A really positive stat for SMU was free throw shooting.  They made 12 of 14, while Colorado made just eight of 17.

The Mustangs again had four players score in double digits led by Nic Moore’s 16.  Freshman guard Shake Milton (14), Markus Kennedy (12) and Sterling Brown (10) were the other double digit scorers for SMU.  Ben Moore led the Mustangs with nine rebounds.

One of the mantras of this Mustang team so far this season has been to “share the ball”.  “We didn’t share the ball well tonight,” Brown said.  The Ponies came into the game ranked fifth in the nation with 20.5 assists per game, but recorded just 10 against Colorado.  Nic Moore led SMU with four assists and took 18 of the Mustangs’ 60 shots in the game.

SMU reached the finals with a 90-74 win over Kent State on Tuesday night.  The Mustangs scored the first basket and never trailed in the game, but the win was not as easy as the final score suggests.  SMU got off to a fast start at 14-4.   However, the Golden Flashes didn’t go away.  They fought back to cut the lead to as few as three points and trailed by eight at the half 41-33.

The second half was a similar game of runs.  The Mustangs made runs to seemingly take full control of the game, only to see Kent State close the gap and keep the score competitive.  SMU had the firepower to pull away at the end, leading by as many as 19 points before Kent State’s Jaylin Walker hit a three point shot for the final score of the night.

It was Brown’s first game back after serving a nine game suspension mandated by the NCAA.  On the post game radio show (KAAM 770 AM), he was asked about his feelings of returning to the sidelines.  “I’m having a hard time to be honest.  I don’t want to mess things up.  I want Tim (Jankovich) to kind of handle things and work my way back.”

Nic Moore had his best scoring game of the season with 25.   He was one of four Mustangs to score in double digits.  Jordan Tolbert continued his assault on SMU opponents with another double-double – 18 points and 10 rebounds.  It was his fifth double-double of the season.  Keith Frazier came off the SMU bench to also record a double-double – 19 points and 10 rebounds.  Ben Moore also scored 10 points.  Nic Moore also led the Mustangs with eight assists.

The bottom line is that SMU takes off for the Christmas holiday as one of the five remaining unbeaten teams in college basketball.  “I’m proud of my team,” Brown said.  He’s saying that not only because of the record, but because of the way the players have handled the disappointment and adversity caused by the NCAA sanctions.

Brown also noted that there was a significant and noisy contingent of SMU fans in Las Vegas for the games which was impressive.  “To have those fans there on the road – That’s pretty incredible.”

SMU resumes play next Tuesday.  They will open their American Athletic Conference schedule in Tulsa against the Golden Hurricane.  Game time is 4:00 PM Central, and the game will be nationally televised on ESPN2.

AND ALSO:

  • The “Dallas Morning News” reported Wednesday that freshman Sedrick Barefield has decided to transfer.  They quoted a tweet from the Compton Magic, Barefield’s AAU team.  It read, “Sedrick Barefield will be leaving the SMU program in his freshman year.”  Barefield appeared in five games playing a total of 16 minutes and did not score.
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