SMU Basketball notches their third win in a short week
BY: Dic Humphrey
UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas – The SMU Men’s basketball team beat Hofstra Sunday evening 73-49 to take their third win in five days and extend their season record to 14-4. It’s the first time the Mustangs have been 10 games over .500 since the 2000-01 season at 16-6. The Hofstra – SMU game was originally scheduled for December 7, but incredibly cold weather in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area that weekend forced the cancellation and re-scheduling of the game. Consequently, the Mustangs were playing on consecutive days, a rare January occurrence in college basketball, as they had beaten Central Florida Saturday 58-46 in Orlando. They began the week last Wednesday with a 71-54 win over South Florida at Moody Coliseum.
The Mustangs started the game with a 6-0 run, as Hofstra didn’t score for almost four minutes. SMU never relinquished the lead. They ran the margin up to 10 at the 9:15 mark (20-10) and extended it to 15 points by halftime (33-18). Nic Moore led the first half scoring barrage with eight points in just 11 minutes, as his playing time was curtailed by foul problems. Markus Kennedy had a strong half with eight rebounds and six points.
The Pride, members of the Colonial Athletic Association, never made a serious run to cut into SMU’s lead in the second half. Six minutes into the half, the Mustangs extended the lead to 20 points at 44-24. With 7:40 left in the game, SMU took its biggest lead – 32 points.
Four Mustangs scored in double digits. Markus Kennedy finished with another double-double, the second of his career, as he scored 12 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Cannen Cunningham actually led the Mustangs with 14 points, eight of which came on four monster dunks. Nic Moore and Ben Moore each scored 10. Nic Moore had a game high seven assists.
For Hofstra, Chris Jenkins led with 14 points to tie Cunningham for game high scoring honors. Stephen Nwauloni led the Pride with eight rebounds.
The Mustangs unusual depth has allowed them to weather this schedule stretch. SMU envisioned having 12 players that could contribute this season. That’s been pared down to 10 as Jaylen Jones transferred and Yanick Moreira is injured. There was speculation that head coach Larry Brown would cut the playing rotation to eight or nine, but so far, he hasn’t; and it may not be necessary. Sunday night, Brown had the luxury of clearing the bench for the final two minutes, which included playing time for walk-ons Kevin Dunleavy, Jr., who scored a basket, and Jonathan Wilfong.
SMU won Sunday doing what the team does best. They played tough defense. They came into Sunday’s game leading the conference and ranking fourth in the nation with an opponents’ shooting percentage of 36.0%. Hofstra shot 33.3% (16-48). The Ponies also had 12 steals, the third straight game that they’ve recorded a double-digit steals total.
Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich was extremely impressed with SMU’s defensive effort. “If there’s a better defensive team in the country, I’ve gotta see it.”
The Mustangs are strong inside and have outscored their opponent in the paint in all 18 games so far this year. Sunday, they outscored Hofstra 42-6 in the paint.
Brown told the media after the game, “I was just happy with the way we played. This is a good win for us. I liked the way we shared the ball. I like the way we ran the court.” He was especially pleased with his team’s defense saying, “I think we’re all pleased with the (defensive) progress we’re making.”
The Mustangs have twice received Top 25 votes this year. With this week’s 3-0 record, they likely will again receive Top 25 votes when next week’s polls are published. SMU next plays Tuesday (January 21), their third game in four days, when they return to conference play against Rutgers at Moody Coliseum. They will be attempting to equal last year’s win total of 15 when they meet the Scarlet Knights, who are 8-10 for the season and 2-3 in conference play.