What we learned from SMU’s 71-69 win over Yale



The Yale Bulldogs came into Moody Coliseum and quickly earned the respect of the SMU Mustangs and its fans by jumping out to an eight-point halftime lead. Despite the constant heckling from the crowd that included the chant “Harvard rejects,” the Bulldogs embodied the mindset of its mascot — tough and gritty — and almost pulled off a huge upset.

No Ivy League pushover

Outside of what Harvard and maybe Princeton have done over the past few years, the Ivy league really isn’t known for producing basketball heavyweights but Makai Mason and the Bulldogs came out the gate ready to pull off the upset. While generously listed as 6’1, Mason used the step back dribble to constantly create space for open looks that resulted in him finishing the game with a team-high 24 points on 7-of-14 shooting — including three three-pointers. Yale shot a blistering 60% from the three-point line which led to the early halftime lead and was primed for the upset until the team went cold in the second half and only made three of its next ten attempts.

SMU has its own set of Twin Towers

While they will never make anyone forget the duo of Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson, the Mustangs two interior big men Markus Kennedy and Jordan Tolbert did their best imitation of the Houston Rocket tandem against Yale on Sunday. Because they were able to avoid foul trouble most of the afternoon SMU fans were able to see the two power forwards in the game at the same time which caused match-up problems for a Yale team that was undersized up front. With Ben Moore struggling offensively — two points on 1-of-4 shooting — Tolbert was able to get more run and he took advantage of the opportunity by leading the team in scoring with 17 points while grabbing six rebounds — four on the offensive side. Kennedy, who spent most of the first half against Sam Houston St on the bench due to foul trouble seems to have adjusted to the new NCAA rules as he was only called for two fouls against the Bulldogs. In 33 minutes, he scored 12 points but pulled down 13 rebounds and had two steals. If they can continue to be this effective on the court together, it could be scary for the rest of the teams left on the SMU schedule.

Brown is ready to be an offensive spark

With the team trailing 46-38 five minutes into the second half, the Mustangs were looking for something or someone to get the team going and junior forward Sterling Brown took advantage of the opportunity. Last season Brown was seen as more of a defensive speciality who was usually the third or fourth option offensively — last year his season high in points was 13. But with the rest of the offensive stars struggling to find their stroke, Brown went on a personal 9-0 run over a three-minute stretch that helped cut the eight-point deficit to two. Interestingly enough the first shot he made on the run, a three-pointer, turned out to be the only shot beyond the arc made by SMU on the afternoon. And while he is not the person most would expect to shoot from deep on a constant basis, it’s good to see that he can be counted on to hit from deep if needed.

Three-point Woes

It was a rough day on both ends beyond the three-point line for SMU. Not only did they allow Yale to make nine of its 20 attempts from deep, the Mustangs only made one in nine attempts themselves. Defensively the Mustangs were just a victim of a hot team making shots as many of the attempts were either contested or from distances that you wouldn’t expect your opponent to make. In the second half, guard Keith Frazier took the personal challenge to shut down Mason and it worked as the Yale guard only made one three-pointer in three attempts and seemed to find the open attempts harder to come by. Mustang fans need not worry about the 11% beyond the arc just yet because it’s not like they are taking bad shots.

Quote from the coach:

He’s always a competitor you can always count on him even if he doesn’t play perfect, he’s all about trying to win. He’ll put his will in the game somehow and he definitely did that in the second half.

– on the Sterling Brown’s play that helped close the deficit in the second half


Quote from the players:

it makes it way tougher to guard me and Markus. If we get the ball and go to work early and it just opens it up for the guards for them to just drive and it definitely makes our offense more dynamic.

– Jordan Tolbert on him and Markus Kennedy being in the game at the same time

UP NEXT: November 29th vs. Brown University 

The Mustangs get a week off to enjoy the Thanksgiving Holiday, but will be back at Moody Coliseum on Sunday afternoon to face another Ivy League opponent. This time the Brown Bears will be making the trek from Providence, RI looking to do what its upper crust counterpart Yale couldn’t do, pull off the upset. The Bears are 1-3 on the season with its lone victory coming against Holy Cross 71-55 and are led by junior guard Tavon Blackmon (11ppg and 5.5apg) and forward Cedric Kuakumensah (10.3ppg and 11rpg)  This will also be a homecoming for junior guard Steven Spieth (9.8ppg and 8.5rpg) who attended Jesuit College Prep and is the younger brother of PGA superstar Jordan Spieth

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