With one of its best players out for an extended time, the prevailing thought was that SMU’s opponents would be able to put its defensive focus on the limiting the perimeter shooting of Nic Moore — the Mustangs’ only other consistent outside shooter.
Unfortunately the Houston Cougars must not have gotten that memo as Moore tied a school record with eight three-pointers and scored 28 points as the SMU Mustangs easily defeated the Houston Cougars 80-59 to improve their record to 16-4 (7-1) on the season.
As soon as the game started, Mustang fans knew that the 5’9 junior was in for a big night as he scored 10 points in the less than 10 minutes to give SMU and early 18-17 lead.
“My teammates did a good job looking for me,” said Moore on his record tying performance “I think we played a really good against a great team.”
One of his teammates that had a strong performance that contributed to the victory was sophomore guard Sterling Brown. With the suspension of Frazier, Brown has been inserted into the starting line-up and he has responded well. In addition to seeing his playing time increase significantly, going from 18.5 minutes to 33, every aspect of his game production has increased as well: points (+ 5.5) rebounds (+3.2) and assists (+2.5). On the night Brown scored 11 points, including two three-pointers, while grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out seven assist with zero turnovers.
“Sterling to me is what basketball should be about, said SMU head coach Larry Brown. “Night in and night out we can never value what is on the (stat) sheet, what he gives you and what he brings.”
With Frazier losing his appeal it looks as if the team will have to make long term plans not to have the talented sophomore in the line-up but if they can continued production from Brown, Ben Moore and Ryan Manuel the team will be tough to beat as the regular season winds down.
As the guards continue to get acclimated to their new found responsibilities the front court continues to be steady and effective. Led by senior center Yanick Moreira’s 14 points and nine rebounds, the guys up front were the catalyst to a +19 rebounding advantage over the Cougars — at the end of the first half SMU had just as many offensive rebounds (11) as Houston had total rebounds (12).
Houston came into Dallas reeling having yet to win a AAC game and despite a strong performance from junior guard Jherrod Stiggers, 25 points with five three-pointers, the Cougars offense struggled to get anything going on the night. They ended the night shooting 35% from the field and allowed 24 points in the paint and 14 second chance points.
After being away fro coaching for six seasons head coach Kelvin Sampson is trying to rebuild the Cougar basketball program after losing its two best players from last season, Tashawn Thomas and Danuel House, as they transferred shortly after he was hired.
The one player he hopes to build around long term is sophomore forward Danrad Knowles who is averaging 11.2 ppg and 5.9 rpg. And while he did not have the most productive game against the Mustangs, 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting, he has the size and skillset to be a force in the conference for the next two seasons.
SMU looks to continue its winning ways as the team travels to Tampa, FL to face the USF Bulls (7-12, 1-5) and new head coach Orlando Antigua. The Bulls are going through a culture change as USF only returned three players with Division 1 experience to start the season. One of those players, Chris Allen Jr., is leading the team in scoring averaging 14.6 ppg and is shooting 34% from three-point. The Mustangs will also have to contend with sophomore forward Chris Perry who is averaging 10 ppg and 7.1 rpg