Ponies take care of business beating East Carolina

by Dan M | Posted on Monday, February 22nd, 2016

 SMUvsECU

BY: Dic Humphrey

UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas – SMU completed a 1-1 week with a workmanlike 74-63 win over the East Carolina Pirates Sunday afternoon in Moody Coliseum. Nic Moore scored 22 points, Markus Kennedy added a personal season high of 19 and Jordan Tolbert chipped in with a double-double to lead the Mustangs to the victory. SMU improved to 22-4 for the season and 10-4 in American Athletic Conference play, while East Carolina fell to 10-17 and 2-12.

The Mustangs played a lackluster first half and East Carolina was hot from three point land. The Pirates made seven three point shots to lead most of the half. SMU finished with an 8-0 run to take a slim 36-35 lead at intermission after trailing by as many as seven points.

“They made shots early. I didn’t think we had a lot of energy early. I thought the last four minutes of the first half, we kind of picked it all up,” Head Coach Larry Brown said.

SMU was sharper in the second half. Shake Milton put in a basket to extend the halftime lead to three points, but East Carolina came back to tie the game two minutes later. From there, it was all SMU. Nic Moore hit three point baskets in three consecutive possessions to give the Ponies the lead for good.

“Whenever he gets hot, I just keep feeding him,” Shake Milton said. “Every time he puts it up, he thinks it’s going in.”

The Mustangs finally pushed the lead into double digits a little over six minutes into the half, but didn’t immediately put the pesky Pirates away. ECU chipped the lead down to as few as four points before SMU finally sent the lead into double digits for good at the 5:37 mark. They twice extended the margin to 13 points before settling for the 11 point victory.

SMU entered the game ranked seventh in the nation in rebounding margin at plus 9.5 and out-rebounded ECU by 24 (41-17). “Obviously, the board was huge for us,” Brown noted.

Brown was also extremely complimentary of point guard Nic Moore, who played 37 minutes Sunday. “It’s been an amazing year for all of us to watch him grow and compete. He plays too many minutes, but he just keeps getting better. I’m pretty confident that he’s going to be playing for a while once he leaves here.” Brown is surprised that Nic is not getting more attention as player of the year nationally, though he noted that Nic made the cut down to the final 20 for the Wooden Award.

SMU took sole possession of second place in the American Athletic Conference with the win. They trail 11-3 Temple by one game and lead Cincinnati and Tulsa, both at 10-5 by one-half game, but by one in the loss column. Temple’s final four games are on the road at Tulsa and Tulane and at home against Memphis and Central Florida.

The Mustangs again had four players score in double digits with Milton at 10 points joining Tolbert with 12 points, Kennedy and Nic Moore. Nic Moore also had a game high seven assists, while Tolbert’s 12 rebounds was a game high.

Prince Williams led East Carolina with 20 points. He hit four of five shots from beyond the three point arc. Kentrell Barkley (15 points) and Caleb White (14 points) also scored in double digits for East Carolina. The Pirates shot made an even 50% of their three point shots (12-24) to somewhat stay in the game.

The Mustangs are down to four games remaining in the season, two on the road and two at home. “I can’t believe we’re going to be done in two weeks,” Brown said. “I hope the next four games are ones they’ll (the team) remember and all appreciate.”

Next up is a trip to Memphis on Thursday. The Tigers are 15-12 overall and 6-8 in conference play, which includes an 80-68 loss to the Mustangs on January 30. The Tigers’ record is definitely disappointing in Tennessee to the point that rumors are floating that Memphis Head Coach Josh Pastner will be fired at season’s end. The game will be televised on ESPN2, and the start time is 6:00 PM (Central).

AND ALSO:

  • The official paid attendance Sunday afternoon was 6,852 which brings the season attendance total to 103,336. That’s the third most in SMU history, with two home games remaining.
  • SMU entered the game ranked sixth in the nation in field goal percentage (49.9%) and shot 53.6% in this game.
  • Jordan Tolbert’s double-double (12 points and 12 rebounds) was his third this season and sixth of his career.
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