Replacing the production of an all-conference player is never easy for any team, but that is what the SMU Mustangs are facing in 2014 with the suspension of forward Markus Kennedy, who is out for the first semester due to grades. But the 93-54 victory over the Lamar Cardinals on Friday night is the first step in proving it can be done — but only if its a full team effort.
Leading the charge was sophomore forward Ben Moore who scored 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting and had nine rebounds. Moore entered the 2014 off-season with the expectation of being more of a wing player, but without Kennedy in the line-up Larry Brown changed his role and the sophomore has responded well. In addition to the efficient shooting Moore also contributed five assists and two blocks.
“I don’t want to put any pressure on him (Moore), but you can get used to it,” said Senior forward Cannen Cunningham on the play of the young forward who exceeded his scoring career high by seven points. If true, the expectations just got a little higher for a program that was already picked by Sports Illustrated to win the conference.
Senior Yanick Moreira, who had a breakout summer playing for the Angola National team during the FIBA World Championships, continued his productive play as he scored 19 points on 9-of-9 shooting, While the 6’11 center took advantage of the size advantage to score over the small Lamar frontcourt, their tallest starter is 6’6, ending the game with only four rebounds is a concern.
But it was an entire team effort, or lack there of, on the glass as SMU was only +3 in overall rebound margin (38-35) and -9 on the offensive glass (11-20).
Making their debut Friday for SMU were two transfers: guard Ben Emelogu (Virginia Tech) and forward Justin Martin (Xavier.) On the evening the two combined for 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting and four rebounds. “They’re unbelievably great kids…their upside is really there and they’re really going to be important,” said Coach Brown of the two new experienced contributors.
Having more help will take the pressure off of pre-season AAC Player of the Year guard Nic Moore. By only checking the box score you would have assumed that Moore had a slow start to the season: 2-of-6 shooting for six points, five assist and three turnovers, but Coach Brown was not worried as he recognized that his point guard was getting other players in the flow of the game and figuring things out.
Hopefully for SMU fans Moore will continue to involve his teammates but also find a way of getting himself going in the next game. The team travels to Spokane, WA to face the No. 13 ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs on Monday night. The Bulldogs are also 1-0 on the season after defeating Sacramento St. 104-58. They were lead by Kyle Wiltjer’s and Kevin Pangos who scored 18 and 16 points respectively.