JUST ENOUGH TO WIN

by Dan M | Posted on Friday, February 26th, 2016

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BY: Dic Humphrey

Number 24 SMU had just enough to pull out a 69-62 win over the Memphis Tigers Thursday night at the Fed-Ex Forum. A crowd of 13,546 had high hopes of seeing their Tigers upset a top 25 team. The Mustangs looked uninspired most of the game, but managed to hold off Memphis for the win. It was SMU’s first time to win consecutive games since the season opening 18 game winning streak, and the win improved their record to 23-4 for the season. They also moved into a first place tie with Temple for the American Conference lead at 11-4. Memphis fell to 15-13 and 6-9.

Head Coach Larry Brown was at a loss to explain how his Mustangs eked out this win. “It was a miracle,” he said on his post-game radio interview on 770 AM KAAM. “Nic was hurt. I think defensively, we really turned it up (late). It’s winning ugly and winning on the road. We made enough plays down the stretch. That was the neat thing. I’m proud of them.”

It was a close and sloppily game all the way. There were 25 steals – 12 for SMU and 13 for Memphis. The Mustangs could have taken control of the game much earlier at the free throw line, but they were uncharacteristically bad at the charity stripe. At one point, they were 5-16, but rallied late to hit their final six to finish 11-22.

The Ponies took at 31-30 halftime lead, after playing a very poor half. Leading scorer Nic Moore did not score. He’s suffering from a thigh bruise that has kept him out of practice, and sat out seven minutes with foul trouble after an atrocious blocking foul was called that should have been a charge.

Moore was much better in the second half, scoring 12 points to lead the second half charge. His final numbers for the game were very respectable with six assists and six steals to go with the double digit scoring.

The Mustangs finally took the lead for good at the 6:09 mark on a three point shot from Shake Milton. However, Memphis cut the lead to one with just 1:37 remaining. This game wasn’t in the Mustangs’ win column until Sterling Brown hit a pair of free throws with 13 seconds left to move the lead to five points. Nic Moore hit two more free throws for the final seven point margin, the largest lead of the game for either team.

The Ponies rebounded well as usual, coming away with a plus 12 rebound margin at 40-28. 12 of the 40 were offensive rebounds which led to 16 second chance points. “We did a great job on the board,” Brown said. The rebounds were a major contributing factor to SMU leading in the points in the paint category, 42-22.

Three Mustangs scored in double digits led by Sterling Brown with 14 points. It was the 16th time this season that Brown has scored in double digits. Nic Moore and Markus Kennedy finished with 12 each. Kennedy was also the leading Mustang rebounder with eight. He finally looks close to 100% recovered from the ankle injury sustained in the Michigan game last December.

Memphis was led in scoring by Dedric Lawson with 18 points. Ricky Tarrant, Jr. was the only other Tiger in double digits with 15. Tarrant also led the Tigers with seven assists.

Memphis played harder than SMU and was more focused. They led for more than 17 minutes to less than 15 for the Mustangs. In the end though, SMU had the superior players to bag the win.

“It feels good to be back on track,” Kennedy said about finally winning consecutive games. “We got it done man. I’m proud of this team.”

SMU now returns to Moody Coliseum for the final two home games of the season. Tulane is the opponent Sunday afternoon, February 28. Game time is 2:00 PM (Central), and it will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.

AND ALSO:

  • Walk-on Jonathan Wilfong, who is from Memphis, got his first start in college and played the first four minutes, getting credit for one assist.
  • SMU entered the game ranked fifth in the NCAA in shooting percentage at 50.1%, and shot 49.1% against Memphis.
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