BY: Dic Humphrey
UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas – The SMU men’s basketball team said good-bye to Moody Coliseum as we know it Wednesday night with a 67-55 victory over Rice. Shawn Williams played a tough inside post up game to lead the Mustangs with a career high 17 points, while Tamir Jackson tried valiantly to keep the Owls in the game by pouring in 20 for Rice. The Mustangs’ Cannen Cunningham played all 40 minutes chipped in with 13 points and 13 rebounds for his second double-double of the year and of his career. The win evened SMU’s record at 14-14 overall and improved their conference record to 4-9, while Rice dropped to 5-22 and 1-12. SMU has played more games (197) and has more wins (120) against Rice than any other opponent.
SMU and Rice jockeyed for position over the first five minutes, but the Ponies took the lead for good with 13:53 left in the first half. From there, SMU ran the lead out to 15 at halftime, and the Mustangs never looked back. Rice cut the lead into single digits by scoring the first six points of the second half in just 1:15 of playing time. SMU quickly matched the six points. Rice fought back to cut the lead below 10 points in the final five minutes, but got no closer than six.
It was an ugly game to watch as SMU kept Rice in the game with 17 turnovers. SMU beat Rice earlier this season by 23 points in Houston, so there was obvious disappointment among players and head coach Larry Brown afterward. “I guess you should be happy when you win a game, but WHEW! I don’t feel happy now,” Brown said afterward. “From our perspective, it’s a win. Hopefully, we’ll be ready Saturday.”
SMU celebrated Senior Night Wednesday, honoring London Giles the only senior on the team. Giles, from Dallas Kimball High School, was the leading returning scorer from last year’s team, but has been slowed by a knee injury this season. He is on schedule to graduate in May with a degree in applied physiology and sports management. Wednesday, he replaced Ryan Manuel in the starting lineup, the first game this year that the starting five differed. He responded by knocking down a three-point shot for the first score of the game. He finished with six points while tying his season high of 24 minutes played.
The win was a grand way to send Moody out in style. The Coliseum originally opened on December 3, 1956, when SMU beat McMurry 113-36. It was initially called SMU Coliseum, but the name was changed to Moody Coliseum in 1965 in honor of William Louis Moody of Galveston. It has been the home to SMU’s men’s and women’s basketball teams, as well as the Dallas Chaparrals of the American Basketball Association, now known as the San Antonio Spurs. It has hosted NCAA Tournament regional games, the initial Southwest Conference Men’s Post-season Tournament, and a McDonald’s High School All American game. It has also hosted NBA exhibition games and one of the most renowned games in Dallas Mavericks history – the deciding game five of the Mavs’ first round series with Seattle in 1984 played at Moody when Reunion Arena was not available. Dallas won the game 105-104 in overtime in what has become known as the “Moody Madness game.”
Moody has been the venue for many non-basketball events including being the home for the SMU volleyball program since its inception in 1996. The first World Championship of Tennis was held at Moody with Ken Rosewall defeating Rod Laver in the finals. SMU annually holds its graduation ceremonies in Moody, as have numerous area high schools. Performers such as Johnny Carson have appeared at Moody. At least three United States Presidents have given addresses at Moody – Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush. Moody has also been the site for numerous summer camps in basketball, cheerleading and gymnastics.
Wednesday’s game marked the end of the 57th season of Mustang basketball at this venue. Over that period, SMU has won more than 500 games at Moody and won nine Southwest Conference Championships. The largest crowds in SMU basketball history were 10,276 and 10,091 against Texas A&M and Texas respectively during the 1979 season. The current seating configuration has reduced capacity to 8,998. The new configuration will offer premium seating options, but the overall capacity after the renovation will be reduced to around 7,500.
Ira Terrell, one of the best if not the very best player in SMU history, attended Wednesday’s finale. He was asked about his fondest memory of Moody. “I guess the night I got those 26 rebounds.” Terrell set the school record for rebounds in a game with 26 against New Mexico in 1972. He also recalled a game against Texas A&M, in which Aggie coach Shelby Metcalf, incensed with a referee’s call, through a chair.
Denny Holman played on three SMU teams in the 60’s back when freshmen were not eligible to play varsity basketball, and all three teams went to the NCAA Tournament. His recollection was simply the thrill of coming out on the court and the fantastic fan support. The student section was often full 30 minutes or more before game time, and of course there was the Mustang band. “There was no place to play in the Southwest Conference that was as good a place to play. Everybody loved to play there, even opponents. We always had incredible crowds.”
The renovation began last spring, but beginning next Monday, work will commence on the inner bowl of Moody Coliseum pushing the final home game of the season for the men’s team to the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland. The renovation is estimated to cost $47 million, which has been largely financed from donations from the Moody Foundation ($20 million) and David and Carolyn Miller ($10 million). The arena is projected to be complete by the start of Big East conference play next January, with next season’s non-conference games in November and December being played in Garland.
Brown was asked about what the renovation will mean to the basketball program. “The school has made a major commitment to basketball. It’s allowed me to hire a great staff. It’s (the renovation) going to be a great thing.” He did say though that a good team will do more to draw bigger crowds to Moody than the renovation. “We’re going to be a good team. I promise that.”
The Mustangs complete Conference-USA play with road games this Saturday at Alabama-Birmingham and next Wednesday at Tulsa. The final home game is scheduled for Saturday March 9 against U.T.E.P. and will be played in Garland. The Conference-USA post season tournament will take place March 13-16 in Tulsa at the BOK Center.