Markus Kennedy continues to pace the Mustangs as SMU Basketball continues its resurgence
UNIVERSITY PARK Sophomore forward Markus Kennedy continued his emergence as a force inside tying a career high 18 points while adding 10 rebounds as the SMU Mustangs shut down Rutgers 70-54 Tuesday night a Moody Coliseum. It was the sixth time in eight games Kennedy led the Mustangs (15-4, 4-2) in both scoring and rebounding. SMU improved to 10-0 at home this season winning all four contests they have played at Moody since its reopening January, 4th against Connecticut.
SMU’s formula for victory was the same against Rutgers (8-11, 2-4) as it has been all season. Stifling defense, strong play inside and sharing the basketball have become the identity of head coach Larry Brown’s resurgent Mustangs. SMU entered the game first in the American Athletic Conference and second in the nation in opponent’s field goal percentage at 35.9%. The Mustangs average 60.2 points against. Rutgers shot 32.7% from the floor becoming the 16th of 19 teams SMU has held under 40% shooting this season. Though they were out rebounded for the just the second time this year 34-33, they remained perfect thus far controlling the points in the paint with a 30-22 advantage over the Scarlet Knights.
Fellow big man Ben Moore chipped in 12 points and five rebound off the bench for the Mustangs. SMU scored 32 bench points to just 11 for Rutgers. Ryan Manuel and Keith Frazier each added eight points in their time off the bench that has proven to be extremely deep and dynamic.
Rutgers started the game missing 15 of their first 16 shots. “Their length and athleticism disrupted our offense early in the game,” said Rutgers assistant coach David Cox, “We couldn’t get into a rhythm. They contested shots at the rim. They contested shots on the perimeter.”
Much of the credit for the tough defense being played by SMU is credited to senior guard Nick Russell. As has been the case most nights, Russell was responsible for checking the opponents top perimeter scorer. Last night that was the Scarlet Knights junior guard Myles Mack who entered the game fifth in the AAC in scoring averaging 16.7 points per game. Mack shot 2-11 from the field posting 13 points in 32 minutes.
“He’s been doing it all year,” Kennedy said of Russell. “He’s working like crazy to stop everybody. Everybody who’s supposed to be a team’s leading scorer, he taken it upon himself to lock him down.”
SMU has now matched last season’s total victories of 15 games and they are currently third the AAC standings. This season’s success has led to talk of the Mustangs being a NCAA Tournament team for the first time in 21 years. Something Larry Brown says he expected when he accepted the head coaching job last season.
“We’ve still got a hill to climb, we’ve got some tough games ahead, but it’s right there for us,” said Brown. “As long as we rebound, defend and share the ball, I think we’ll put ourselves in a good position.”
SMU will look to continue their march to NCAA madness Sunday when they travel to Houston to take on the Cougars at 2pm central time.