Its finals week for the students and it showed as the SMU Mustangs started off slow before handily defeating the University of Chicago-Illinois Flames 67-46
To say the first half was ugly would be putting it nicely. Regardless of what the players say something beyond the game was on their mind int he first half as the Mustangs were only able to generate 29 points. Fortunately for SMU the University of Illinois-Chicago Flames did not fare too much better either and shot a dismal 18.8% and only scored 15 points — the lowest halftime total allowed by SMU this season.
“Different games start different ways, sometimes you get off to fast starts, sometimes you get off to slow starts” said forward Justin Martin when asked about the sluggish start for the team. “The tougher team and the more mentally focused and locked in team will prevail in the end.”
And despite the scoreboard not showing it, the home team did exhibit a level of toughness that carried them through the cold first half. The team shot 45% from the field, had a +16 advantage in free throws attempted and out-rebounded the Flames 29-15. Yanick Moreira — who finished the game with 11 points and eight rebounds — led the way in the first half with nine of those points and six rebounds.
This was the third consecutive game for SMU where the opposing teams leading scorer was an interior player — junior forward Jake Wiegand came into the game averaging 13.7ppg and 8.1rpg. And in similar fashion to the previous games, the frontcourt of SMU was able limit interior effectiveness. Going into the half Wiegand had not scored on 0-of-3 shooting and only had four rebounds.
The second half both teams seemed to awaken from the slumber that led to the woeful shooting — SMU shot 61% from the field and UIC shot 34%. Leading the scoring “outburst” was sophomore and Dallas native Keith Frazier. On the night Frazier finished with 16 points on 5-of-6 shooting and recorded the first double-double of his career as he corralled 10 rebounds.
“He’s so unselfish,” said head coach Larry Brown.”He does things every day to show that he is getting better.”
The continued improvement will be put to the test this Saturday as the Mustangs head to Ann Arbor, MI to face a Michigan Wolverine team that is in the midst of a three game losing streak in which they lost to two inferior opponents at home in NJIT and Eastern Michigan University and then was blown out by Arizona 80-53 at the McKale Center in Tuscon, AZ.
Michigan is a young team that currently has no seniors on the roster and starts two freshmen. The team is led by junior swingman Caris Levert who is averaging 16.7ppg and 5.2 rpg.
The game will air on ESPN2 at 12 PM ET