Mustangs Can’t Boil Rice in Conference Home Opener
After getting conference play underway with a 57-55 buzzer beater win over Tulsa Saturday, the SMU Mustangs hosted Rice in their conference home opener Wednesday evening. SMU entered the game having won seven of their last ten games and were undefeated at home this season going 5-0. Rice on the other hand came into the game after dropping its conference opener 63-61 at home to Marshall. Rice entered the game (9-7, 0-1) and took control of play early jumping out to a 16-2 lead before SMU knew what had hit them. Guard Jeremiah Samarrippas stopped the bleeding with a three-pointer to cut the lead to 16-5 and helped the Ponies get themselves back into the game. Robert Nyakundi’s three-ball from the top of the key with just over a minute left in the first half brought the Mustangs to within six points at 29-23 at the break. Rice shot fifty percent from the floor in the first half helping them keep the lead. In addition every player in uniform for Rice scored in the first half but one while SMU only had four players with points at the half.
Things did not get much better for SMU in the second half as Rice jumped out to a 45-31 lead with 12:16 left in regulation. SMU seemed to have trouble handling the balance of the Rice offense all night, and trialed heavily in the rebounding column 36-22 on the night. Samarrippas hit a three with 2:10 to play that cut the Owl’s lead to eight 60-52, but Rice quickly closed the door on the Mustangs hopes of a comeback. Rice disposed of the Ponies 68-52 in the end. Rice forward Arsalyn Kazemi was a force all night and led all scorers with 21 points while adding 13 boards. SMU was led by Nyakundi’s 14 points and Samarrippas 12.
The Mustangs (9-7, 1-1) travel west to El Paso to take on the UTEP Miners Saturday before returning to Moody next week to take on the Cougars of Houston.