With 10:46 left in the second half, The SMU Mustangs turned a close 42-36 score with the Wyoming Cowboys into a comfortable 58-45 lead by going on a 22-3 run spearheaded by junior Nic Moore who contributed seven points during the outburst and finished with 25 points on 10 of 14 shooting. The 66-53 win for the mustangs moves them to 5-3 on the season and hands Wyoming its first loss at 7-1.
“We’ve played some really quality teams, but this is the hardest we’ve played i think.” said head coach Larry Brown ” We’ve had a tendency when stuffs gone bad to look around and point fingers instead of regrouping — that could have gotten out of hand when we were down six.”
At quick glance of the box score there is nothing that would have told you that the game was so close. The mustangs won the rebounding battle 35 to 16, shot 56% from the field and attempted 17 more free-throws than the Cowboys. But even with those disadvantages the Cowboys were up 39-34 with 11:39 left in the second half.
Part of the problem for the Mustangs was the inability to contain senior forward Derek Cooke Jr. On the evening he finished with seven rebounds to go with his 15 points — including a thunderous putback dunk in the first half. Throughout the evening he was left open near the rim and he made the Mustangs pay for the attention they paid to the Mountain West Conference Preseason Player of the Year Larry Nance Jr.
The Mustangs picked the right poison in focusing on limiting Nance Jr. Coming into the game Friday, the son of former NBA great Larry Nance was averaging 15ppg — including a 24 point performance in the win against New Mexico St, but the Mustangs defense used multiple bodies to attack him and it worked. On the night Nance Jr. only scored three points on 1 of 4 shooting — with the free throw being his lone point in the second half.
“I was surprised at the way we defended,” said head Coach Brown. ‘We were pretty well prepared, but they are about as disciplined as any team that you are going to play.”
But even with their leading scorer not being involved the Cowboys found help to keep them in the game. Senior Riley Grabau scored 15 points on 5 of 10 shooting from the three-point arc — all season highs. Despite the close score most of the evening the Cowboys were limited to 40% shooting from the field and 29% from the three-point arc and not being able to rely on their best player in the midst of the momentum shifting run hurt the Cowboys.
In addition to the performance by Nic Moore, forward Ben Moore scored 14 and forward Yanick Moreira tallied his second double double of the season by scoring 15 points and tallying 10 rebounds.
This was the fifth home victory in six games for SMU and they continue the seven game homestand Monday when they host the University of Cal Santa Barbara Gauchos. USCB is 4-3 on the season and are led by center Alan Williams who is averaging 19.3ppg and is coming off a 16 point and 12 rebound performance in a 87-43 victory over Seattle University.