SMU Basketball remains consistently good as they defeat UConn 74-65 in the reopening of the renovated Moody Coliseum
By Tommy Smith
DALLAS — “I guess it was what we were all hoping for when we came here,” Larry Brown said when asked about the Mustangs new home court. “I had no idea the building would be as beautiful as it is. I was worried about us losing some of the history. I was worried that it might not be as loud… but I told a couple of my assistants if we ever played good, it was going to be just as loud as it’s always been. So that was a good feeling.”
In front of their first sellout crowd since Nov. 20, 2001, the SMU Mustangs christened the newly renovated Moody Coliseum with an enthusiastic 74-65 win over the 17/15 ranked UConn Huskies. The much-anticipated game sold out December 19th and the 7,166 fans in attendance got their money’s worth on the court and around the facility that now includes expanded concourses with raised ceilings, private suites as well as new video and scoreboards.
Changes to their surroundings aside, SMU has been a model of consistency in the statistics department during Head Coach Larry Brown’s second season. Need proof? Check out these numbers. The Mustangs (11-3, 1-1) began the game leading the newly-formed American Athletic Conference in FG percentage for, as well as against. SMU has begun the season hitting 50.4% of their shots from the field while allowing opponents to shoot 35.7% from the floor. In Saturday’s win over UConn, the Mustangs shot 25-53 (47.2%) from the field. Defensively, the Ponies have now held 12 of their 14 opponents this season, and 17 of their last 22 overall under 40% from the floor. The Huskies (11-3, 0-2) shot just 18-49 (36.7%) in the game.
Want some more? SMU leads the AAC in rebounding margin this season at +9 per game. They have now won the battle of the boards against all but one opponent. Texas A&M out-rebounded the Mustangs 37-33 Nov. 30th though SMU won that game 55-52. SMU was +8 in rebounds against the Huskies grabbing 37 boards to UConn’s 29 while holding a 15-10 advantage on the offensive glass.
Taking the trends even further inside, SMU has outscored all 13 of their previous opponents this season in the paint. The Mustangs entered play Saturday holding a 35.8-19.9 advantage of inside points per game. SMU scored 28 points down low to UConn’s 18 in the win. To amplify the positive similarities the Mustangs continue delivering game in and game out, SMU had 16 dimes to UConn’s 12. Shocking, the because Ponies are second in the AAC in assists at 15.8 per game.
Sophomore transfer point guard Nic Moore has been the Mustangs’ catalyst throughout pre-conference play and that continued to be the norm in the win over UConn. Moore was named Player of the Game scoring 20 points (15 in the first half) adding six assists and three rebounds before fouling out with 38 seconds left to play. Moore hit the first basket for SMU in the new Moody Coliseum tying the score 2-2 1:46 into the game, and followed up that bucket with the first three ball giving the Mustangs a 5-2 lead 2:32 after the tip.
“He set the tone from the tap,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said of Moore’s play. “Couldn’t pressure him, he got wherever he wanted to. He dictated the play,” Ollie said. “They were tougher tonight, and they made the plays.”
After falling behind 18-13 with 8:38 left in the first half, SMU began to take control of the game and never really gave it back. Ryan Boatright, who led all Huskies in scoring with 9 points, tied the score 22-22 with a jumper with 4:59 left in the opening half. However, Sterling Brown’s three pointer 16 seconds later seemed to electrify the crowd and the Mustangs, who never trailed by more than two points the remainder of the game.
UConn took a 33-32 lead into the locker room. Huskies forward DeAndre Daniels, who will forever be known as having scored the first basket in the renovated Moody Coliseum, drained a three pointer 59 seconds into the second half putting UConn up 36-34. Nic Moore would then tie the game for the sixth time 38-38 with a jumper 3:38 into the second half. That bucket started a 9-3 SMU run that made the score 47-41 Ponies with 11:36 left to play. From there, the Mustangs never looked back.
SMU led by as many as 13 points twice in the second half. Sterling Brown recorded the first dunk in the renovated Moody putting SMU up 67-56 with 2:58 to go. Markus Kennedy, who finished with 10 points and eight boards, added a layup on SMU’s next possession forcing UConn to call time out with 2:25 to play. At that point, the long-awaited celebration by Mustang fans who have been waiting since the University announced the hiring of Larry Brown to become relevant once again began in earnest.
After the game Nic Moore and Nick Russell joined Coach Brown at the podium. “I felt we played a lot for (the fans),” said Moore, “So we continued the tradition and it is important to all of us.”
“We have been waiting for this day,” Russell added. ”January 4th has been on our calendars forever. It finally came. We were all excited. We were all jacked up for it and we just wanted to come out and play hard.”
“We have everything now,” said Brown. “We’re in a great league, got a great school, great city. Now it’s up to us as coaches to make them better, make kids feel like they came here that they’d be supported like this. They have a chance to get a good education and they’d be coached. I don’t look at any other program and think they have any more than us.”
After beginning the season a consistent winner and knocking off a school as rich in basketball tradition as the University of Connecticut to reopen the home court, that statement is becoming harder and harder to argue as the SMU Mustangs continue to make their way back to prominence once again.