1-of-9 shooting, zero assists and seven turnovers…
That kind of start will doom you against any team, but when it happens against the No. 25 ranked team in the nation, it’s really hard not to end the game in a blowout.
“They imposed their will and we weren’t prepared,” said head coach Larry Brown. “You look no further than the coach when the team comes out that way, disorganized as we were.”
Unfortunately for SMU that disorganization caused by Arkansas forced the team play catch up the entire night. While SMU bounced back in the second half and even cut the deficit to five, the Mustangs just weren’t able to overcome the poor start and fell the Razorbacks 78-72 to drop their record to 2-3 on the season.
At the 7:23 mark of the first half and within a minute of each other fouls were called on guards Keith Frazier and Nic Moore which changed the outlook of the game. With both players forced to the bench for the remainder of the second half Arkansas was able to stymie an SMU offense that didn’t have a legitimate ball handler in the game. The mustangs shot 2-of-5 and had six turnovers over the next six minutes and the Razorbacks stretched the lead from four to 11. While the gap doesn’t seem a lot the momentum was on Arkansas side and outside of two brief runs by SMU in the second half, the Razorbacks controlled the remainder of the game.
Sophomore forward Bobby Portis led the way with 22 points and five rebounds and was a difference maker on both sides of the ball. Offensively he showed his versatility by hitting a three-pointer and also imposed his will on the interior. Guard Michael Qualls also contributed 13 points, including two three-pointers, and was integral in the swarming Arkansas defense that forced 19 SMU turnovers.
“I thought tempo was going to be important in this game” said Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson. “We certainly wanted to ramp it up and make them make basketball decisions and I think we did a good job.”
And while this Razorback team still has a way to go to be revered like the “40 minutes of hell” teams led by Nolan Richardson, this current roster has developed its own identity through the #fastest40 moniker. It is already paying dividends as they have forced 67 turnovers in the previous three games and are ranked in the Top 25 for the first time in seven years.
Leading the way for SMU with 20 points and 10 rebounds was senior forward Yanick Moreira. While Portis won the overall head to head match-up, Moreira had his share of victories including a sequence at the 17:00 mark of the second half where he made a jump shot, grabbed the defensive rebound and went coast-to-coast for the lay-up. “I thought Yanick in the second half took the challenge,” said Coach Brown. “It wasn’t 38-10 like Australia (during the FIBA Championships), but it was pretty good.”
Moreira’s part during a 7-0 run cut the Arkansas lead to 40-29 and gave the sellout crowd at Moody Coliseum hope that the team could come back.
SMU had three others in double figures including 16 from Keith Frazier, who continued his good play, and 13 from senior Ryan Manuel – including a thunderous dunk over Arkansas guard Anthlon Bell.
Sophomore Ben Moore and guard Nic Moore both had an off night as they combined for 10 turnovers and only made 2-of-11 attempts from the field. This is the second consecutive off night for Ben Moore – against Eastern Washington Ben only scored four points on 2-of-8 shooting.
The Mustangs have to wipe this defeat from their mind quickly as they play an unusual back to back game tonight versus Texas Southern. The Mustangs lead the series 2-0 with the last match-up being a 118-67 victory for SMU in 1986 – long before any of the current players were born. The Tigers are 0-4 on the season and are led by Chris Thomas, who is averaging 16.3ppg and 6.3rpg.