SMU’s SEASON ENDS EARLY
Southern Cal Plays Strong Second Half to Overcome Big Mustang Lead
BY: Dic Humphrey
TULSA, Oklahoma – Semi Ojeleye scored 24 points and Sterling Brown added 17 more, but it wasn’t enough to beat Southern Cal Friday in Tulsa’s BOK Center. The Trojans held a lead in the game just twice, but one of those was the one that counted the most – 66-65 with no time left on the clock. The Mustangs held double digit leads in each half and never trailed until the three minute mark of the game, but the Trojans stifled the Mustangs’ offense with a 2-3 zone defense late in the game to pull out the win.
“I believe our players showed tonight that they’ll get down, but they can come back,” Southern Cal Head Coach Andy Enfield said after the game. The Trojans had come back from a 17 point second half deficit two days earlier to beat Providence for the right to play SMU.
SMU started the game with a hot shooting hand. They hit the first basket. They pushed the lead to as many as 12 points, as they shot 45.2%% from the field. SMU hit five three point shots to just three for the Trojans. The Ponies took a 38-30 lead to the halftime locker room. Semi Ojeleye with 11 points and Sterling Brown with 10 were SMU’s double digit scorers. Ojeleye was well on his way to a double-double with seven rebounds.
Elijah Stewart hit all three three-point shots for the Trojans to lead them in scoring at halftime with 11 points. Southern Cal was taller and longer than SMU, but still lost the first half rebounding battle 19-14.
The Men of Troy came out strong to start the second half. They hit three pointers on the first two made baskets of the half to slice SMU’s lead to two points. The Mustangs met the challenge and answered back though. With 11:32 left in the game, SMU had the lead back to 10 points. Southern Cal didn’t quit though. They kept pecking away until they tied the game at 60 with three minutes remaining.
From there, the Mustangs scored a basket but gave up the lead when Bennie Boatwright hit a three point shot to put SC ahead 63-62. It was the Trojans first lead of the game. With 1:30 left, Shake Milton hit a three point shot to give the lead back to the Mustangs 65-63. It was the last score of the game for SMU. The Ponies turned the ball over, and watched Elijah Stewart make a three point basket that proved to be the game winner.
The Ponies had their chances. They missed two shots on their next possession and Shake Milton’s try at the buzzer didn’t go in.
Coach Jankovich recalled the opening for the old sports series “The Wide World of Sports”. “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. I can certainly relate to that show right now. Today is obviously an incredible heart break. If ever there was a team to deserve some great things to happen, particularly this time of the year; it was these guys.”
“But give Southern Cal credit. They battled from behind the entire game and at the right time, good things happened for them.”
Ojeleye led all scorers in the game with 24 points and completed a double-double with 10 rebounds. Stewart led the Trojans with 22. Two other Trojans and two other Mustangs scored in double digits. As a testament to the strong second half the Trojans played, Southern Cal out-rebounded SMU for the game 34-30 and out-shot the Mustangs 48% to 42%.
Southern Cal moves on to play Baylor on Sunday. The Bears beat New Mexico State 91-73. The Mustangs finish 30-5 for the year, the most wins in school history for a season. They will try to put together another team next year worthy of an NCAA bid, but they will do it without seniors Ben Moore and Sterling Brown, whose college careers are now over.
- Semi Ojeleye became the 13th player in SMU history to post a double-double in the NCAA Tournament, and he became the 11th Mustang to score at least 20 points in an NCAA game.
- The NCAA Tournament has utilized the format of eight teams participating in play-in games to make the field of 64 for seven years. With SC’s win, at least one of those four teams winning a play-in game has gone on to win another game in the tournament each year.