MUSTANGS DISPENSE UCONN – SMU WINS 25TH Game

by Dan M | Posted on Saturday, February 25th, 2017

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BY: Dic Humphrey

The SMU men’s basketball team took an early double digit lead, and held off a strong second half charge from Connecticut to beat the Huskies 69-61 Saturday afternoon in Hartford Connecticut. It was the Mustangs’ 25th win of the year, the fourth consecutive season they have reached the 25 win plateau. It improved their American Athletic Conference record to 15-1, which for a day at least puts the Mustangs alone in first place. Second place Cincinnati is 14-1 and plays Central Florida in Orlando on Sunday afternoon.

“This is as good of an environment as you’re gonna find,” SMU Head Coach Tim Jankovich said on the post-game radio show on KAAM 770 AM. “I thought they played an outstanding game. They gave us problems offensively, defensively.”

The Mustangs took charge of the game in the first five minutes with a 13-0 run that gave them a 10 point lead at 14-4. The lead grew to as many as 16; but by halftime, Connecticut cut the deficit to 11 at 41-30. Shake Milton led the Mustang’s offensive charge with 18 points on six made three point baskets.

The troublesome aspect of the half though was foul trouble. Sterling Brown got two early and compounded the problem with a smart remark to a ref that assessed a technical on top of the two. He played just eight minutes. Semi Ojeleye sat out nine first half minutes with two fouls. Ben Moore also had two fouls, but played through it.

“The big story for us (in the first half),” Jankovich said “We were in big foul trouble. We were holding on for dear life. Shake’s offense was amazing. We needed that desperately.”

Jankovich was forced to play Dashawn McDowell, who had not seen action since February 4. McDowell played 10 minutes. Even walk-on Leo Kontopoulas saw first half action for the first time in his career.

The quick start for SMU served to take the crowd out of the game. The official paid attendance was announced at 13,553, but with the Huskies trailing most of the half by double digits, there was little to cheer for.

Connecticut was hot early in the second half, got the crowd into the game and steadily whittled the lead down to as few as five points. However, the Mustangs answered with a 6-2 run over a four minute period that essentially wrapped up the game. SMU got the lead back into the double digit range, such that the outcome was a virtual certainty in the final two minutes.

Scoring-wise, the Mustangs put four players in double digits for the 21st time this season. Milton led the Mustangs with 20 points. He added a career high eight rebounds to miss a double-double by two boards. Semi Ojeleye was just 4-12 from the field, but hit seven of nine free throws to total 16 points. Ben Moore tallied 15 points and missed his third double-double in a row by one rebound. Sterling Brown played only 28 minutes because of foul trouble, but was the Mustangs’ fourth player in double digits with 11 points.

Connecticut also had four players in double digits, led by Kentan Facey with 15. Vance Jackson and Christian Vital were next with 14 points each. Rodney Purvis had 11. UCONN center Amida Brimah scored just one point, but was a game changer defensively.   He grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked four shots.   Connecticut fell to 14-14 for the year and 9-7 in conference.

The teams made the same number of baskets – 23, but the Mustangs made three more three point shots and five more free throws to account for the eight point differential. Connecticut out-rebounded SMU by one (37-36). It was just the fourth time this year that SMU has not won the battle of the boards.

Jankovich summed up his team’s performance nicely, “Unbelievable team effort. Unbelievable team that we saw out here today and a bunch of other games this year, and a great win for us. It was a hard game,” he added saying about Connecticut, “A desperate team. A team on the rise. A team that wins almost every game here (in Hartford).”

The game finished the road portion of the Mustangs’ regular season schedule. They finished 8-1 in conference and 9-4 away from Moody Coliseum overall, including 1-1 in neutral site games. The season ends with a pair of home games this week. Tulsa arrives Thursday. The Mustangs beat the Golden Hurricane on February 4, 76-53. Game time Thursday night is 7:00 PM Central, and the CBS Sports Network will televise the game.

AND ALSO:

  • SEEN AT THE GAME: Former SMU Head Basketball Coach Larry Brown, who traveled with the team from Dallas.
  • SMU has won 11 straight games and 21 of their last 22.
  • The 41 points the Mustangs scored in the first half is their largest first half output in a road game this season.
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  1. Bob Harris says:

    Love your stories – very concise and informative VTL

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