By Dic Humphrey
Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams at SMU finished conference play this past weekend with losses. The women’s team lost at Rice to finish 12-4 in conference play and 21-8 for the season. The loss opened the door for the Mustangs to share the conference title with either or both Tulane and East Carolina, both of which trailed the Mustangs by just one game. However, East Carolina lost Thursday night to Southern Mississippi, and Tulane lost to UTEP on Friday. Both finished at 11-5, tied for second place, and the Mustangs finished alone in first place.
The conference championship is certainly treasured, but the women’s team finishes the season going the wrong direction. They have now lost two of their last three games, and four of their final seven, after racing to a 9-0 conference start. They do, however, go into the C-USA postseason tournament as the No. 1 seed with a first round bye. They will play the winner of Central Florida and Houston, the eight and nine seeds, on Thursday at 11:00 AM in Tulsa. The first-place finish in conference also assures the Mustangs a berth in the WNIT if they don’t win the postseason tournament to end up with the conference’s automatic bid or receive an at-large invitation to the Women’s NCAA Tournament.
SMU also received exciting news on Sunday when the All-Conference teams were announced. Guard Keena Mays was named to the All Conference first team, while senior Alisha Fillmore and junior Akil Simpson were named to the second team. Mays was later named as the Conference Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year. She averaged 19.3 points per game to finish second in C-USA in scoring. She tallied at least 10 points in all but three games and at least 20 points nine times in the 21 games she played after becoming eligible as a transfer nine games into the season.
Fillmore scored 354 points this season to top the 1,000 career point total. She is the 20th player in SMU history to reach 1,000. Her 12.2 points per game average was 18th in the league. Simpson shot 46.7 percent from the field, which ranked seventh in Conference-USA, and she also led the Mustangs with 8.3 rebounds per game. As a freshman, she made the All-Freshman team and last season, she also made second team All-Conference.
The men’s team looked tired and worn out Saturday in their game against UTEP. They grabbed a two-point lead early in the game, but the Miners ran off eight straight points to take charge of the game with a 13-6 lead. That grew to 14 at halftime (39-25) and to as many as 22 in the second half, before the Mustangs cut the final margin to 13 at 76-63. The men’s team finished the season with a 15-16 overall record and was 5-11 in conference play.
Saturday’s game was played at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, as construction commenced last week on the interior of Moody Coliseum as part of a $47 million renovation. The Culwell Center will also be the site of SMU home games this fall when the 2013-14 season begins, as Moody is expected to be ready for the start of conference play.
The Mustangs go into the C-USA post-season tournament as the No. 10 seed and face No. 10-seed Alabama-Birmingham in the opening game. It will be played Wednesday at the BOK Center in Oklahoma at 3:30 PM. The winner of that game will play Southern Mississippi on Thursday afternoon.