What we learned from the Mustangs’ 85-50 victory over Sam Houston St.

Vladamir Cherry

P/C Vladamir Cherry

In Good hands with Coach Jankovich:

When the NCAA levied the nine-game suspension of head coach Larry Brown many wondered how the team would react, but the 85-50 victory revealed that there won’t be much of a drop off with assistant coach Tim Jankovich stepping into the main seat in his absence. In the offseason the NCAA established a mandate on how referees would officiate games and because of it against Sam Houston St. Coach Jankovich was faced with a tough dilemma early on as all three big forwards: Ben Moore, Markus Kennedy, and Jordan Tolbert picked up two fouls in the first half. In order to combat the lack of size up front, Coach Jankovich switched to a zone defense and featured a smaller lineup with the tallest player on the court being swing forward Sterling Brown — who is generously listed as 6’6.

Jankovich has over 33 years of coaching experience, including five years as Illinois St. head man from 2007-12, so he has the credentials to lead in the interim, but we all know that there were skeptics out there who questioned his ability to adjust on the fly while incorporating the newcomers into the rotation and after one game it appears that he knows what he is doing.

The freshmen are ready:

You never know what you will get with freshmen, but for the Mustangs the duo of Shake Milton and Jarray Foster are ready to prove that they aren’t your average freshmen. Milton, a 4* recruit from Owasso, OK led the team in scoring with 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting and showed the ability to run the offense with Nic Moore — eight points on 2-of-7 shooting and only one assist — having a slow start to the season.

After tearing his ACL the summer before his junior season Foster, a Houston, TX native, only had offers from SMU, New Hampshire, and Rice. Now fully recovered, he is showing the bigger programs that only glanced at him (Baylor, Texas, and Texas A&M) what they missed out on as he is now playing with the confidence of a higher rated recruit. On the night the Foster finished with eight points, four rebounds, and had a highlight lay-up that probably will be a dunk once he gets his legs under him.

While the other freshman on the roster, Sedrick Barfield from Corona, CA, only played two minutes due to having a 101 temperature, the coaches plan on him being an integral part of the guard rotation as the season continues.

The Mustangs are dangerously thin up front:

As said earlier the best frontcourt players for the Mustangs picked up two fouls in the first half forcing Coach Jankovich to bench them and go with a small lineup. Playing zone, as the team did, is one way of masking the lack of depth but what happens if there is an injury to one of the three guys they are counting on? Duke transfer Semi Ojeleye will be available in January, so hopefully the Mustangs can avoid the injury bug until he can provide reinforcement up front. Even with those three mired in foul trouble, SMU was still able to out rebound the Bearkats 42-30 and once they got back on the court, the trio combined for 29 points in only 61 minutes.

Kennedy eventually fouled out but Moore only picked up one foul in the second half and Tolbert avoided the attention of the ref entirely, so maybe they are already getting used to how the games will be officiated and are adjusting their style of play accordingly.

Nic Moore’s shoe game is off to a bright start:

P/C Vladimir Cherry

“What are thoooose…” 

Usually, that’s a phrase used in the sneaker community to throw shade at someone wearing some busted shoes, but in this case, I really need to know what were those kicks on the feet of the reigning American Athletic Conference player of the year Nic Moore.

I learned early on in the 2014-15 season that Moore is a true “sneakerhead” and has no problem rocking his latest pickup on the court. From the Kevin Durant VII N7’s to a litany of Air Jordan retros, if you wanted to know what the latest shoe release was… all you had to do was look on the court at Moore’s feet because he probably was already rocking them.

Key Quotes:

From Coach Jankovich:

We played more zone, not by design in any way shape way shape or form, but I felt like during the game it was our best hope to keep our best players in the game our best hope to not foul guys out. They played four very quick guards and we were having a hard time staying in front of them and the way it’s being called right now, you literally put a hand on them… it’s a foul. So I think you’re going to see all coaches across the country make adjustments.

 

From the players:

Last year I don’t feel like I was mentally where I should have been and this year Im a little more focused. I’m focused on each game, taking it one game at a time. I’m not going to have a repeat of last year.

-Ben Moore on how his play has improved from last season

 

UP NEXT: November 19, 2015 @ Stanford

The Mustangs travel to Maples Pavilion to face a tough Stanford Cardinal team led by former Duke Blue Devil guard Johnny Dawkins. The Cardinal are already 2-0 on the season after defeating Green Bay and Charleston Southern in NIT Season Tip-off and are led by sophomore guard Dorian Pickens and senior forward Rosco Allen, both who are averaging 17.0ppg early on.

Stanford is 94-30 in home games and this away game will give the Mustangs a good litmus test on how the freshmen and Coach Jankovich will react to an unfriendly environment.

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