After having started the season on an 18 game winning streak, the SMU Mustangs have lost three of its last five games including the 82-77 five-point heartbreaker to the Tulsa Golden Hurricane on Wednesday night after giving up a seven-point lead with over seven minutes remaining in the second half to fall to 20-3 (9-3) on the season. With no post-season plans for this year’s squad, it will be interesting to see what Coach Larry Brown does to keep the team focus and motivated in its last seven games of the season.
The dynamic duo of Kennedy and Moore needed more help
With the bench already dwindled down to two contributing bodies on Wednesday the Mustangs had to endure an uncharactersictally bad shooting night from three key contributors as Ben Moore (2-of-7 for four points), Sterling Brown (2-of-8 for nine points), and Shake Milton (3-of9 for 10 points.) But even with the bad shooting night from others, SMU was still in the game until the very end because of the team’s leaders Markus Kennedy (13 points and 5 rebounds) and Nic Moore ( 27 points — including six three-pointers) There was a stretch in the second half where the senior duo contributed to seven consecutive points for the Mustangs; but momentum shifted once Moore exited the game after picking up his fourth foul.
The defense let them down
For all the offensive woes, Coach Brown attributed the loss to too many lapses on the defensive end of the court. While SMU limited the Golden Hurricane to only six made three-pointers in 15 attempts, three of those makes came at crucial moments late in the second half when Tulsa went on an 18-9 run to turn a four-point deficit with 4:22 remaining into a five-point win.
When you are playing any team in conference play it’s important that you limit your opponents best players, even against the poor teams. Unfortunately, SMU did a poor job of that tonight as Tulsa’s top three scorers Shaquille Harrison (21 points five rebounds), James Woodard (20 points), and Pat Birt (17 points and four made three-pointers) accounted for 58 of the teams 82 total points.
Little things led to the big defeat
surrendering a 10 point fast break scoring advantage
only making 10 free-throws in 18 attempts
allowing 19 points off turnovers
Individually, you may be able to overcome these mistakes but when all four aspects are combined — along with the poor shooting from key role players — you have a recipe for an upset loss.
There’s not much time to recover from the frustrating loss as the Mustangs host perennial powerhouse Gonzaga on Saturday night and with the quirky NCAA rules on practicing, the team was not allowed to convene on the court to fix some of the issues they discovered in defeat.
The Zags may not be garnering the national attention they are used to, but they still are a dangerous team lead by a great coach in Mark Few and star forward Kyle Wiltjer (21.8 ppg and 6.6 rpg). and double-double machine Domantas Sabonis (17.4 ppg and 11.5 rpg)
Gonzaga is coming off a 26 point victory over Portland and despite having 20 wins on the season, the Zags need this out of conference victory over a ranked team to strengthen a weak tournament resume.