MEN’S BASKETBALL ON A ROLL

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

SMU easily won a pair of games last week, beating Tulane in New Orleans comfortably and blowing out Houston at home.  The streaks are now six wins in a row for the first time since the 1992-93 season, and 14 wins in the last 15 games.  The voters in the polls are taking notice.  SMU received votes in both polls for the third straight week.  Essentially, the Mustangs are tied with Ohio State for 28th in the AP and are 30th in the Coach’s poll.

Nic Moore had spectacular games, leading the Mustangs in scoring in both wins.  In Saturday’s game, he tied his career high with 28 points as he hit eight three point shots and four free throws.  The eight threes tied the SMU record and set an American Athletic Conference record.  Moore was named AAC Player of the Week for in the first time in his career, after previously being named to the weekly honor roll 12 times including four this season.

Last week’s games were the second and third the Mustangs have played without sophomore Keith Frazier, whose final appeal to overturn his academic ineligibility was denied.  With Justin Martin leaving the team a week earlier, the Mustangs playing rotation is down to eight players.

SMU has won the last three easily after playing strong second halves.  The team looks to be coming together, and a team personality is emerging.  The big men underneath are dominant.  The team routinely out rebounds and out scores opponents in the paint.  The ball movement on offense continues to improve leading to a large percentage of assists on made baskets.  The team plays strong defense.  It’s relentless and it wears opponents down.  That’s the big reason for the strong second halves.

With the success on the court and the feeling that the team has fallen into place, it raises the question:  “Is this team better without Frazier?”

The answer is probably both yes and no.  Frazier has become an outstanding player.  He’s the best pure shooter on the team, and he’s developed defensively, on the boards and his ball handling skills.  He’s good enough to start on any team in this conference, and he’s just a touch of consistency away from being considered for All-Conference honors.  There is no question that his loss puts a hole in the program.

On the other hand, the team has developed more consistency with the playing rotation shortened to eight players.  Sterling Brown is the biggest beneficiary minutes-wise.  He was averaging 15 minutes per game until Frazier’s departure, and has played 33 minutes on average in the last three games.  Brown started 26 of 37 games last season as a freshman, and despite losing three starters – two seniors and Kennedy to academics last fall - he lost his starting job this year.  No complaints out of Brown.  He just kept practicing and playing hard.

Now that opportunity has knocked on his door, he’s taking full advantage.  He’s scored 27 points in the three games, as he reached double digits twice.  He’s also been a strong rebounder averaging more than seven per game since becoming a starter again.  Brown is a superior defensive player, so the team defense is strengthened.

Cannen Cunningham is another player that is getting more minutes and responding positively.  The 6′-10″ senior would start on most teams in this conference, but comes off the bench with Yanick Moreira and Ben Moore starting, and with Markus Kennedy eligible again.  That foursome is awesome under the basket.  Teams have to game plan around the Mustangs’ inside game, and with four top players for two positions, foul trouble is rarely a problem.

In fact, Ben Moore has fouled out of a game twice this year (Gonzaga and Arkansas).  That’s the only two foul outs on the team this season.

Ben Emelogu is the other player that has gotten more minutes.  He’s been an enigma.  Head coach Larry Brown says he sees a lot in practice from Emelogu.  He’s got the physical tools to be really good.  He’s listed at 6′-6″, 205.  The Grand Prairie native was elected a captain at Virginia Tech last year and averaged 10.5 points per game in the ACC.

For whatever reason, it’s not translating into solid play here.  He’s shooting just 24% on the season.  After 20 games, you have to wonder if it’s going to get better.  The problem is mental.  Larry Brown says he needs to get Emelogu playing with more confidence.

As long as the Mustangs don’t sustain a significant injury among the eight man rotation, this team will be fine.  If they lose any of those players though, Keith Frazier’s absence will be noticed by everybody.

The conference schedule reaches the halfway point this week, and the race to win the conference has boiled down to four teams.  Tulsa is undefeated in conference play at 7-0, followed closely by SMU at 7-1.  Cincinnati at 5-2 and Connecticut at 4-2 are the third and fourth place teams.

This week, the Mustangs should have little difficulty extending their winning streak to eight games.  They play both Florida teams – South in Tampa on Wednesday and Central at home on Saturday.  Those two teams have collectively won three conference games so far, and SMU will be favored on the betting line by double digits in both contests.

However, the second half schedule is more challenging.  The Ponies face the other three contenders twice each in conference play, and so far have played just one of those six games.  That leaves five games with contenders along with a contest with Memphis in Memphis that won’t be a day at the beach.  The bottom line is that six of the final eight games will be difficult.

The schedule turns tough next week, as the Mustangs host Cincinnati on Thursday and travel to Tulsa on Saturday, the 5th and 7th of February.  If the Mustangs can win those two to run the winning streak to 10, they almost surely will be ranked in the Top 25 again.

FRAZIER TO THE SIDELINES

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

The Mustangs easily beat East Carolina Saturday77-54 in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicates.  SMU led for the entire game except for the first 21 seconds, led by as many as 33, and played walk-ons the last two minutes.  Certainly, East Carolina is not a strong opponent, but the win was still significant.

The news broke on Friday that Keith Frazier has been ruled ineligible and lost to the team for the rest of the season.  Frazier, a starting guard that has averaged 10.5 points and four rebounds per game, is generally considered the best pure shooter on the team.  He was a McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school, the first ever recruited at SMU.  His commitment in Larry Brown’s first year has brought credibility to the program and helped reel in other top players.  On top of his offensive prowess, he has worked hard to become a complete player.  At this point in time, he for sure is a valuable player even on the nights when his long range jump shot isn’t falling.

Brown issued a statement Friday indicating that Frazier would be attending the funeral of a family member and would not be in attendance at the East Carolina game.  He added that the school has filed an appeal on the ruling and is hopeful that Frazier will be back on the court soon.

In Saturday’s game, the Mustangs dressed just eight scholarship players and two walk-ons.  Brown has from time to time talked about his dilemma of finding playing time for a rotation of 10 players.  With Justin Martin leaving the team a week ago and the Frazier situation, Brown did not have the problem Saturday.  Starting center Yanick Moreira was the scholarship player that recorded the fewest minutes (15) as he was limited by foul trouble.  He scored eight points, falling two shy of giving the Mustangs six players in double digits for the game. 

The two most likely candidates to start in Frazier’s place if he in fact is not allowed to return are Sterling Brown and Ben Emelogu.  Brown started Saturday.  Brown played in all 37 games as a freshman last year, starting 26.  Coming into Saturday’s game he had played in all 17 games this season, averaging 2.9 points per game while playing 17 minutes per game.  Against East Carolina, he played 32 minutes and scored 10 points, which included two made three point shots.  Brown is regarded as a superior defensive player.

Emelogu saw 21 minutes of action against ECU and scored five points on 2-8 shooting.  One of the made baskets was a three pointer.  As a freshman last year at Virginia Tech, Emelogu averaged 10.5 points and 3.1 rebounds per game, numbers that are similar to Frazier’s so far this season.  There is the feeling that Emelogu is a much better player than he’s shown so far, and hopefully Mustang fans will see the player he’s expected to be if his playing time increases.

It’s entirely possible that the Mustangs may not miss a beat if Frazier doesn’t return.  The problem is really in the team’s depth.  An injury and/or foul trouble could punch a big hole in the team.

But the Frazier situation is why Saturday’s dominant win was so important.  The team played an outstanding game without him.  The general attitude among the players, who of course want Frazier back, is that they have to go on and play well irrespective of what happens with his eligibility.

Coach Brown says he wants to see good ball movement, to have the team “share the ball” as he puts it.  The Mustangs did that well against East Carolina as they recorded 21 assists on 30 made baskets.  The assists were spread out through the lineup as seven different players recorded at least two.

Jeff Lebo, East Carolina’s head coach, said that SMU and North Carolina are the two best passing teams the Pirates have faced this year.  He was especially impressed with SMU’s interior passing game.

One of the baskets that did not result from an assist received the largest ovation of the game.  Jonathan Wilfong, one of the two walk-ons, stole a pass and took it in for a dunk with five seconds left.  When the clock ran out, he was mobbed by his teammates as if he had scored the winning basket in overtime.

Even Brown said in his post game meeting with the press that he was surprised to see the dunk.  He did say though that Wilfong is better than most people think and may see more playing time.  Unsaid was the caveat “if Frazier doesn’t come back”.

Another good sign from Saturday’s game was Markus Kennedy.  He played 22 minutes, scoring 12 points and grabbing six rebounds.  He also had three assists and two blocks.  Brown again said that Kennedy is not in shape yet.  However, he’s been back for almost a month and has played in eight games.  If he isn’t in shape yet, he should be soon.

After Saturday, Kennedy is averaging 10.3 points per game, a total boosted by a pair of 21 point games.  He deserves consideration to start, but Brown reiterated Saturday that Kennedy has come to him and asked not to be a starter.  That included last Wednesday’s game against Temple in Kennedy’s home town of Philadelphia.  Kennedy feels that the chemistry that developed among the starters in the first 10 games should not be upended, and he is confident the minutes will work out fine if he plays well.  Who knows, he may become the rare non-starter that makes an All-Conference team. 

SMU officially has given no indication of the nature of the problems that have caused Frazier to become ineligible.  Coming off Kennedy’s situation, the natural assumption was that it was an academic problem this past semester.  That however may not be a good assumption.  In a development that may be related, assistant coach Ulric Maligi took a leave of absence for personal reasons.  Maligi is known as a strong recruiter and was involved in recruiting Frazier to the Hilltop.

There is no timetable for a resolution of Frazier’s situation, but a final decision should be known soon.  This is a team capable of realizing its objectives without Frazier; but make no mistake about it, the Mustangs are a much better team with Frazier than without.

AND ALSO:

Duke transfer Semi Ojeleye began practicing with the team last week and will begin classes this Monday.  Ojeleye is a 6′-8″ forward that was the Parade Magazine National High School Player of the Year two years ago.  In his senior year, he averaged 38.1 points per game as he set a Kansas state record for scoring in a season.  The total points he scored in high school is also a new Kansas state record.  He averaged 8.5 rebounds per game, and his team won the state championship for the fourth year in a row.

He also had a 4.0 GPA in high school and is a member of the National Honor Society.

He was introduced to the crowd prior to Saturday’s game against East Carolina and received a warm welcome from the crowd.  He fills a need as the Mustangs lose post players Yanick Moreira and Cannen Cunningham to graduation.  Ojeleye, who played in six games at Duke this season and 17 last year as a freshman, will be eligible after the fall semester and will have 2-1/2 years of eligibility remaining.          

DISAPPOINTING LOSS

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

Last Saturday’s 56-50 loss to Cincinnati ended the Mustangs’ eight game winning streak and evened their conference record at 1-1.  SMU went into conference play as the favorite to win the conference, while Cincinnati appears to be the biggest threat to win if the Mustangs don’t.  Road teams often lose in evenly matched road games, which this game was.  Five Las Vegas betting lines last Saturday morning had SMU favored by one over Cincinnati, Cincinnati favored by one over SMU, and three “pick ems”.

Still this was a disappointing loss.  After a slow start, SMU put together a 14-3 run to take an eight point lead at 20-12.  However, Cincinnati finished off the half with a 7-2 run of their own to close the gap to three at the half (22-19).  Head Coach Larry Brown said afterward that he thought the team’s play at the end of the first half was the difference in the game.

Pony Rap reader Ryan Phillips put together betting lines for every conference game a week or so ago before the first conference game with South Florida.  He utilized the Sagarin ratings to compute the lines, and based upon those figures, SMU was a 1.8 point underdog last Saturday in Cincinnati.  That was the ONLY conference game that the Mustangs were NOT favored.

The team does look to be rounding into shape despite last Saturday’s loss.  The eight game winning streak began with a lineup change that Brown says is paying dividends.  Ryan Manuel is now the starting two guard.  Brown says the move has taken the pressure off Nic Moore at the point.  Manuel has been described by a national writer as a “freaky good” athlete.  He’s 6′-5″ with long arms.  His entrée into the lineup improves the defense.  He can shut down just about any guard and most forwards.

As his playing time has increased, Manuel’s offense has developed.  He scored 14 last Saturday, all in the second half and most after SMU fell behind.  He essentially led the charge that cut the Bearcats’ lead from as  many as 10 to three in the final 30 seconds.  The bottom line:  he improves the ball handling and defense and can help the offense.  What’s not to like?

Markus Kennedy is back.  He’s played four games since becoming academically eligible.  Brown said last week that Kennedy is in terrible shape.  He’s going to have a difficult time re-capturing the form that earned him second team All-Conference honors last year.  In the first place, the bigs have been pretty darn good without him.  Yanick Moreira is averaging 12.1 points per game, second on the team to Nic Moore’s 14.6.  He’s tied with Ben Moore, the other big man under the basket, for the team lead in rebounds with 6.4 per game.  Cannen Cunningham is the number one big man off the bench, and he’s averaging 5.8 points and 3.5 rebounds.  Kennedy will get his chances and an injury could open the door to a big year; but he’s going to have a tough time duplicating last season’s numbers.

With Kennedy back and with Justin Martin healthy, the Mustangs have a deep playing rotation of 10 solid players.  They should be able to withstand bad games or foul trouble from starters.  Brown’s problem is really passing around the playing time to keep everyone sharp, while keeping his hot hands on the court to win games.

In the end, a close game often goes to the home team, as it did last Saturday.  The disappointing part though is the import of the game.  A win last Saturday would have set SMU apart as the clear cut leader of the conference.  The Ponies now have four losses.  Gonzaga is understandable.  They’re perhaps the most talented Gonzaga team in head coach Mark Few’s tenure.  The game was played in their arena where they are double tough.  Kentucky would have difficulty beating Gonzaga in Tacoma.  The Bulldogs are 14-1, with the only loss coming against Arizona (sixth and seventh in this week’s polls).  The other three losses though -Indiana, Arkansas, and now Cincinnati – were all winnable, but the Mustangs just couldn’t step up on the big stage to win one of these.

Certainly, all four losses will be viewed in early March as “good losses” as all four teams are receiving votes in the polls and  Gonzaga (six and seven) and Arkansas (23 and 25) are ranked this week.  However, if the Mustangs are to become the team fans believe they can be – a team that can not only make the NCAA Tournament, but go deep into the Tournament once they get there – they need to win some big games.  The chances are running out as this conference is not shaping up as a strong one.  No team is currently ranked in the Top 25 and only Cincinnati and Temple received votes this week – both in the coach’s poll only.

The season continues Thursday when the Ponies host Memphis.  The game begins an hour later than usual – 8:00 PM (Central) and will be televised on ESPN2.  Three betting lines are posted tonight, and all three have SMU favored by 8.5 points.

 

FINALS BREAK

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

The Men’s basketball team is back in action tonight after a nine day break for finals.  Fans, coaches and players are feeling much better about the team after they beat UC-Santa Barbara last week for their fourth win in a row, which improved this season’s record to 6-3.

Usually, a team on a winning streak wants to keep playing.  In this case though, the break from games was welcome from an injury standpoint.  Nic Moore actually injured his knee two games ago.  He played against UCSB even with a slightly detectable limp.  Unfortunately, he hit the knee in the same spot early in the second half and was not able to return.  As of yesterday, Moore’s return for tonight’s game was questionable.

Also, Justin Martin has been nursing a bone bruise.  He missed four games completely, before logging 13 minutes of playing time against the Gauchos, and looked rusty doing so.

There are undoubtedly other nagging injuries that need the rest too.  In the case of Moore though, the injury may have been a blessing in disguise.  In past games, the offense bogged down when Moore was on the bench.  The result is that head coach Larry Brown has been forced to play Moore more than desired.

Against UCSB, the Ponies held a 14 point lead shortly after Moore departed, but with the Mustangs’ offense turning sluggish and a suddenly hot three point hand, the Gauchos steadily ate into the lead.  They caught the Mustangs and three times took the lead.  SMU finally got the offense together and seemingly took charge of the game with Ryan Manuel doing most of the ball handling.  The Bens - Emelogu and Moore - also helped.

The game should have been won in regulation, but the Mustangs missed some critical free throws in the final 90 seconds that allowed the Gauchos to send the game into overtime with a three point shot at the 10 second mark.

UCSB’s three point magic (they made nine in the second half alone to overcome the nine point halftime deficit) vanished in overtime.  They were 0-6 from behind the arc, and scored just six points.  SMU took the lead early, with four critical points coming from Emelogu on two free throws and a basket.  UCSB was forced to foul late to stop the clock, and this time SMU was sharp from the charity stripe.  They made nine of nine and outscored the Gauchos 13-6 in overtime for the nine point win.

It had to be a confidence builder to win without Nic Moore at the critical time of end game and overtime.

Before the winning streak, the feeling was that this team simply wasn’t as good as last year’s.  That sounds illogical as eight key players returned from last year’s team that learned how to win.  The experience of last year had to be a positive for this season.

The team looks considerably different now, perhaps just as good as last year’s at this point.  This team plays outstanding defense.  Against the Gauchos, with the Nic Moore on the bench and the offense sputtering, it was the defense fueled the offense late in the game, as the Mustangs came up with stop after stop.  Seemingly, all the hustle balls went the Ponies’ way.

Indeed in the last two games, the Mustangs have held two top post players well below their average; a critical element in both wins.  Wyoming’s Larry Nance, Jr. led the team in scoring and rebounding, but was held to just four points on 1-4 shooting.  UCSB’s Alan Williams will certainly be playing in the NBA next year.  He came into the game averaging more than 19 points and 13 rebounds, but failed to reach double digits in either category.  UCSB’s coach said that it was the best defensive job any team had done against Williams in the four years he’s been with the Gauchos.

With finals in the books, the fate of Markus Kennedy should be known soon.  A check with the Sports Information Department this week indicated there was no update yet.  Word on the street is that his return from academic excommunication is not assured.  He may be lost for the rest of the year.  Hopefully, that won’t happen.  The inside play has been good in his absence with Yanick Moreira, Ben Moore and Cannen Cunningham playing well.  But Kennedy was second team all conference last season, and his absence has been felt already.  Hopefully, he pulled out the grades to regain his academic eligibility.

Tonight’s game against Illinois-Chicago starts at 7:00 PM (Central) and will be televised by the CBS Sports Network.  A check of eight Las Vegas betting sites has the Mustangs favored by 18-1/2 to 19 points.  The Mustangs then hit the road to play Michigan Saturday in Ann Arbor.  Game time is noon Eastern and 11:00 AM Central, and the game will be televised on ESPN2.

IT’S OVER

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

SMU’s tackle football season mercifully came to an end yesterday in East Hartford, Connecticut.  Surprisingly, it came to a positive end, as the Mustangs won for the first time this season, beating UCONN 27-20.  The win ended the Mustangs’ 13 game losing streak and averted the fourth winless season in SMU history.

The Mustangs looked well on their way to that winless season at halftime, as they trailed the Huskies 20-6.  The temperature was in the lower 40′s when the game began.  It hadn’t changed much by the half, but the precipitation had increased.  It would have been easy for the players to throw in the towel and play just to get the last half of football in this season over.

Much to their credit, they rallied for three touchdowns and the win.  They most improbably did the damage on the ground.  All three touchdowns were rushing TDs; two by Prescott Line and the other by Matt Davis.  Davis set a new SMU quarterback rushing record as he ran for 191 yards.  Line added a career high 90 yards on 20 carries.  Davis also threw for 145 yards completing 15-33.  Darius Joseph was his favorite target, catching nine passes for 108 yards.

SMU almost doubled Connecticut’s first down total 20-11.  They led in total yards 422 to 318.  The most telling stat though was the turnovers.  SMU benefitted from five takeaways (four fumbles and one interception), while giving up three.  Indicative of this miserable season is that the total takeaways for the year, including five against UCONN, was just 12.

When the win is coupled with the hiring of Chad Morris as the new head coach as announced last Monday, this turned out to be the best week in SMU football in a long time, probably years.  Morris has already named the bulk of his coaching staff and has initiated the recruiting effort.  The consensus is that SMU got a steal in Morris, who may well have been a candidate for a higher profile job had he waited a bit longer.  He most surely wanted to return to Texas though, and doing so with a $2 million annual salary and living in the Park Cities may well make up for the lesser profile of SMU football.

There has to be some misgivings for Tom Mason.  He reluctantly took over the head coaching job when June Jones unexpectedly resigned two games into the season.  It may be career suicide.  As the losses mounted, it became clear that Mason would not be getting the job on a permanent basis.  There is no place for him on Morris’s staff, nor should there be.  Morris has promised a complete cultural change in the program, and keeping any of the former staff in place is counter productive to that goal.  Mason however improved the team over the season despite a spate of injuries.  He deserves a better fate, but this stop as interim head coach is unfortunately a black eye on his resume.

Make no mistake about it, the days of SMU football success won’t be arriving soon.  The talent cupboard is bare after years of lackluster recruiting efforts by Jones.  We’ve all been pleased, indeed thrilled with the rapid turnaround in basketball under Larry Brown; but football takes a lot more bodies.  The turnaround won’t happen overnight.  There is no question though that the Mustangs’ football future looks and feels a lot brighter today than it did just before Thanksgiving.

FOOTBALL SUNDAY

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

The University of Houston beat SMU Friday 35-9 in a game of tackle football to run the Mustangs’ 2014 record to 0-11.  Connecticut next Saturday is all that separates the Ponies from the second 0-12 season in school history.  If the Huskies prevail, and they are favored by 11.5 points on the Las Vegas betting line, it will be the fourth winless season in SMU history – the others being 2003 (0-12), 1960 (0-9-1) and 1916 (0-8-2).  The Mustangs have now lost 13 games in a row, two short of the school record set in 2003 and 2004.

SMU held a 9-7 halftime lead against UH; but in the second half, SMU failed to score and the Cougars romped to four touchdowns for the win.  Perhaps the Mustangs’ best chance for a win vanished two weeks earlier against South Florida when SMU led in the fourth quarter.  It seemed like a magical night early as the Ponies took a 3-0 first quarter lead.  All 10 of SMU’s other opponents scored in the first quarter.

The Mustangs expanded the lead to 13-0 by the end of the third quarter.  However, the last four possessions of the game could not have gone worse for SMU fans.  SMU was three and out in their two possessions, while South Florida switched quarterbacks and drove for touchdowns in both of theirs.  The final score came with four seconds remaining in the game, and the extra point was good for a 14-13 South Florida win.

The big news about Mustang football broke late in the week before the UH game.  There are reports that Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris will be named as the next head football coach on the Hilltop.  Some reports have the deal already done, with an annual salary of around $2.0 million.  The Dallas Morning News has recent quotes from Morris and SMU President Gerald Turner that a deal has not been finalized, though Morris admitted that he has spoken with SMU, and that his ultimate goal is to be a head coach.

Morris is one of the highest paid assistants in college football with a reported salary of $1.3 million as Clemson’s offensive coordinator.  He has been linked to head coaching vacancies at Texas, Texas Tech, Vanderbilt and Louisville in recent years.  He is regarded as a very good offensive coordinator and a very good recruiter.  Clemson’s offense averaged 507.7 yards and 40.2 points per game a season ago as Morris was named as the AFCA National Assistant Coach of the Year.

He has Texas roots spending 16 seasons coaching high school football in the state, most notably at Stephenville and Lake Travis.  His high school record as a head coach was 169-38, an 81.6% winning percentage.  His teams won three State titles and participated in six State Championship games  Two of those State Championships came at Lake Travis with former SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert at the helm.

Morris turns 46 this Thursday.  He is married and has two children.  He graduated from Edgewood High School in Edgewood, Texas and earned a bachelor’s degree at Texas A&M in 1992.  He also coached at Tulsa in 2010 as the offensive coordinator under Todd Graham prior to taking the Clemson job.

The final Mustang football game of the season is next Saturday at 11:00 AM (Central).  It will be televised on CBS College Sports (DirecTV channel 221).

ROUGH WEEK

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas – The second week of the season proved to be a rough one for the SMU Men’s basketball team.  They lost two tough road games before finishing with a win Saturday night in Moody Coliseum.  SMU evened their record at 2-2 with a 77-68 win over Eastern Washington after losing in Spokane and Bloomington to Gonzaga and Indiana.  The two losses dropped the Mustangs out of the Top 25 in both major polls.

Saturday, SMU jumped out early, doubling up Eastern Washington 24-12 over the first seven minutes.  EWU cut the deficit to eight points at half time, but the Ponies seemingly took charge of the game for good by starting the second half with a 13-4 run.  Keith Frazier, the most prized recruit in Larry Brown’s reign as head coach, spearheaded the charge, as he scored nine of the 13 points.  He finished the night with a career high 17 points as he made seven of eight shots.

Brown said later that Frazier “shouldn’t be getting eight shots.  He deserves more.  He’s our best shooter.”

Frazier for sure seemed to hit a stride.  He had earlier passed up makeable shots, but something clicked in Saturday.  He was simply seeing the basket and shooting the ball without hesitation.  He was the Keith Frazier that Mustang fans have been looking for since he arrived on the Hilltop.

Hopefully, it’s a permanent turnaround.  The Mustangs have been strong inside with Ben Moore and Yanick Moreira, but they need the outside threat to complement the posts.

Eastern Washington shot 36 three point shots on the night out of 60 total.  They made 11 for a 30.6% shooting percentage.  This comes on the heels of Indiana shooting 33 threes (out of 58 shots) on Thursday in their 74-68 win over the Mustangs.

Brown was asked Saturday if the word is out that the way to attack SMU is with a plethora of threes.  Brown said no, that the three point shot was the staple of EWU’s and Indiana’s offenses.  He especially likened Eastern Washington’s style of play to European teams that rely on outside shots.

Eastern Washington did close to within five points with about 1:30 left in the game, but the Mustangs sank six of six free throws the rest of the way to secure the win.  Brown was pleased, saying that the Eagles “are really well coached.  They have great guards.  I think this is a good win against a quality team.”  It was Eastern Washington’s first loss of the year after reeling off three wins to start the season.

Their guard Tyler Harvey led all scorers in the game with 24 points.  12 of those points came from beyond the three point arc.

Mustangs’ point guard Nic Moore had his best scoring and assist game of the season with 22 and six.  Sterling Brown put in 23 minutes off the SMU bench and grabbed a career and game high 11 rebounds.

The week started with a 72-56 loss to Gonzaga.  The Bulldogs have been an elite basketball team for a number of years, and some college basketball followers believe this is the most talented Gonzaga team since Mark Few became head coach.  They totally out classed the Mustangs on Monday night.

They have solid big men under the basket and guards that can shoot the three.  Their point guard Kevin Pangos scored a game high 17 points, which included five three point baskets.  They hustle, and on their home court, they are extremely difficult to beat.  They are solid in all aspects of the game and moved into the Top 10 in both major polls this week at 10 (AP) and eight (Coaches) with a 4-0 record.

The loss at Indiana was more disappointing.  The Mustangs were actually slight favorites on the betting line even with the game played in Bloomington.  The Mustangs took a 12 point lead in the first nine minutes of the game.  Unfortunately, 12 proved to be the Mustangs largest lead of the game and relatively short-lived.  Indiana roared back to lead by five at the half 38-33.

The Mustangs came out hot though in the second half, outscoring the Hoosiers 17-8 over the first eight minutes to take a 50-46 lead.  They looked poised to take control of the game, but Indiana rallied with a 7-2 run to regain the lead at 53-52.  SMU never led again.

The Mustangs relied on it’s inside game and outscored Indiana 42-14 in the paint.  The improbable statistic though was the fouls.  SMU was charged with 23 while Indiana committed just 17.  Despite SMU shooting inside shots and Hoosiers largely outside jump shots, Indiana made 20 free throws while the Mustangs shot just 10.

On paper, this Mustang team looks similar to last year’s, but there is a considerable difference.  Starters Nick Russell and Shawn Williams have graduated.  Markus Kennedy is lost until at least next month for academic reasons.  That’s three starters gone from last year’s 27-10 team.  Brown is trying to blend in newcomers Justin Martin and Ben Emelogu, plus give Frazier a more meaningful role.

Martin however came out of Saturday’s game with a leg injury.  He needed assistance to leave the court.  Martin was fully examined on Sunday, and he’s out for two to four weeks with a bone bruise.  However, he said the early indications were that Martin would be out for a while.

“We’ve gone from being real deep and now we have a short bench,” Brown said in reference to Martin’s and Kennedy’s absences.

This week the Mustangs are home for three games.  The big one is Arkansas, which broke into the Top 25 this week at 25 in the AP poll, on Tuesday night, followed by Texas Southern on Wednesday and Monmouth on Sunday.  Tuesday’s game begins at 6:30 PM (Central) and will be televised on ESPN News.  It will be the 155th meeting between the former Southwest Conference rivals.

NOTABLE:

*     The SMU Women’s team beat Eastern Washington Saturday afternoon in Moody Coliseum, 69-53 to even their record at 2-2.  Destynee Hives-McCray led the Mustangs with a double-double as she scored 13 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.  It was her second double-double of the season.

GREAT OPENING

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas – There is no question that there are great expectations for this year’s SMU Men’s basketball team, and Friday night, the season got off to a great start with a 93-54 win over the out-manned Lamar Cardinals.  SMU led this one wire to wire, taking a 10 point lead in less than seven minutes and extending it to more than 20 at the half at 46-20.  The largest SMU lead was 43 with four minutes left in the game.

SMU did the scoring damage with three big men.  The Mustangs outscored the Cardinals 46-14 in the paint as Ben Moore, Yanick Moreira, and Cannen Cunningham combined to score 56 points on 22-27 shooting (81.5%).  Moore led all scorers with 22 points, while Moreira and Cunningham added 19 and 15 respectively.  Moore led the Mustangs with a game high nine rebounds, as he fell one rebound short of recording a double-double, and a game high five assists.  Guard Nic Moore also had five assists.

Newcomers Ben Emelogu and Justin Martin, transfers from Virginia Tech and Villanova, look to be fitting in nicely with the Mustangs’ system.  Emelogu started and scored eight points.  He also had three steals, a third of SMU’s total for the game.  Martin has been dealing with an injury which limited him to 10 minutes of play, but he scored eight points on 3-3 shooting, including one three pointer.

One Mustang thought to be a key to this season is Keith Frazier.  Frazier was a McDonald’s High School All-American at Dallas Kimball and was ranked as one of the top 20 players in the country coming out of high school.  He made his first college start Friday night and tied his career scoring high with 11 points on 3-6 shooting.  That included 2-4 beyond the three point arc.

Point guard Nic Moore, an All Conference performer last season, played a solid game scoring six points with five assists and a steal in 29 minutes.  Moore averaged 32 minutes per game last year, but the addition of Emelogu is expected to enable SMU to play Moore less and keep him fresher.  It was a quiet game by Moore’s normal standards, but Larry Brown said about him, “I thought he played great.  We just won by 40.  He’s trying to do the right thing.  He’s done really well in practice.  We need to have other people help us.  He’ll be fine.”

The bad news of the day for SMU was the confirmation of the rumor that had been floating for more than a month that center Markus Kennedy is academically ineligible until at least the end of the first semester.  Kennedy was named to second team All-Conference last season and was the Mustangs’ second leading scorer.  He will miss key non-conference matchups with Gonzaga, Indiana and Arkansas, though he if he regains his eligibility this season, he should be back in time for the Michigan game.  His absence creates a huge hole for the Ponies, though the center cupboard is not bare.  Yanick Moreira was the starting center at the start of last season, while Canned Cunningham was the starting center two years ago.

Head coach Larry Brown shared these thoughts after the game, “I don’t like games like that.  That’s a tough game for us cause we’re not prepared for a lot of things we saw.  They threw so many different defenses at us.  At the end of the day, everybody got to play, which you always love as a coach.  I thought our transition defense was really good.  For the most part, we took good shots.  We took some quick threes, but they were there.  But we didn’t rebound like we needed to, and we put them on the line too much.  That gives us something to talk about.”

Brown admitted there were some pre-game jitters as the season started.  “I think guys were excited.  Keith (Frazier) was like a nervous wreck, but he kind of calmed down.  Yeah, I think there was a lot of excitement.  We got a couple of kids that hadn’t played for us before – Justin (Martin) and Ben (Emelogu).  And Justin’s been out.  He really hasn’t practiced much at all.  But all in all, we have a win at home.  We’ve got practice tomorrow and watch some film to get ready to play you know one of the better programs in the country (Gonzaga) in a real difficult place to play against a great team.  It’s a little early.  We expected to have Emmanuel (Mudiay) and Markus (Kennedy), but we’re just gonna learn from this.  I’m anxious to see how we compete.  I’m hopeful we’ll be prepared to play.”

“I thought all our big guys offensively were really good.  I think we just need to be more concerned about rebounding the ball better.”  Brown was especially pleased with the play of the two transfers, “I’m really confident they’re going to be really big contributors for us.  They’re both unbelievably great kids.  Justin (Martin) has poise.  He’s played in two NCAA Tournaments.  Ben (Emelogu) is just a great kid who wants to get better.  I think their upside is really there, and they’re really going to be important.”

The Mustangs schedule is much tougher next week as they hit the road to play Gonzaga, ranked 13th in both major polls, on Monday night and Indiana on Thursday.  Monday’s game is televised in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area on ESPN2 at 10:00 PM (Central).  Thursday’s game can be seen on the Big 10 Network.  The next home game is next Saturday at 7:00 PM against Eastern Washington.

COCKTAIL CONVERSATION:  Buck Showalter, the American League Manager of the Year, and Clayton Kershaw, the National League Cy Young and MVP Awards winner, attended the game.  They were there to see Preston Mattingly, Lamar’s 27 year-old point guard, who is the son of Yankee great and Dodger manager Don Mattingly.  Mattingly and Kershaw were teammates in the Dodgers’ minor league system.  Also seen at the game was actor Ben Baumgarner noted for appearing on the television series “The Office”.  Baumgarner is a former SMU student.

SIGNING DAY

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

As expected, high school seniors Malik “Shake” Milton, Sedrick Barefield and Jarrey Foster signed with the Mustangs’ Men’s basketball team yesterday.

Milton (6′-5″, 190) was the Oklahoma Player of the Year last season, when he averaged 28.0 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game for Owasso High School.  Owasso had a 21-6 record and reached the state quarterfinals.

Barefiled (6′-2″, 185) averaged 17.4 points, 4.4 assists and 2.2 rebounds per game for Centennial High School in Corona, California.  He led his team to a 29-4 record last year.

Foster (6′-5″, 190) averaged 12.9 points 5.5 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.2 steals per game for Houston North Shore, which won the 5A state title.

The SMU Women’s program signed four players for the 2015-16 season.  They included Dallas Skyline standout Dai’ja Thomas, Karlie Cronin from Virgina, McKenzie Adams, a transfer from Arkansas, and Stephanie Collins from Australia.  Collins is the third player to join the Mustangs from the Australian National team.

Thomas is a 6′-2″ forward that averaged 10 points and seven rebounds as a junior.  She was All-State last year when she shot 56% for the season.

Cronin is a 5′-9″ guard from Vienna, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D. C.  She started all 31 games as a freshman for Oakton High School, which won state with a perfect 31-0 record.

Adams started all 30 games for Arkansas last year.  She was fourth on the team in scoring at 8.6 points per game.  She played in high school at Frisco Centennial.  She will enroll at SMU in the spring and be eligible to play after the fall semester next year, though SMU plans to apply for a waiver to make her eligible for the entire 2015-16 season.

Collins is a 6′-5″ center from Melbourne.  She is expected to enroll this spring and be immediately eligible.  Twins Alicia and Keely Froling are the other two Australian players in the SMU program.

NEXT YEAR

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

The Men’s basketball home and season opener against Lamar is less than a week away, but the Mustangs expect to have a big day even before next Friday.  Wednesday is the November signing date for high school seniors, and the Ponies have received four outstanding verbal commitments.  Certainly verbal commitments are not binding, and last minute switches have occurred, but assuming the foursome follows through as committed, it will be a big day for Mustang basketball and their fans.  Here’s a look at the four high schoolers that have committed verbally to SMU.

Shake Milton:  Milton is a four-star combo guard from Oswego, Oklahoma.  He is ranked in ESPN’s top 100 prospects and selected SMU over the Sooners and Indiana.

Jarrey Foster:  Foster is a 6′-4″ guard from Galena Park North Shore rated as a three star prospect.  He projects to play the two or three at SMU.  He originally committed to Rice, but switched shortly after his September visit to the Hilltop.  Foster also had garnered interest from Baylor and Texas.

Sedric Barefield:  Barefield is a 6′-2″ point guard from Corona (Centennial High), California.  He’s rated as a four star prospect., ranked 85th in the 2015 class by Rivals.com.  Barefield actually committed as a junior during an official visit to SMU.

LaGerald Vick: Vick is another four-star recruit from Memphis.  He’s a 6′-5″ shooting guard that chose the Mustangs over his hometown’s Memphis Tigers.  He was also recruited by SEC schools Tennessee, Mississippi, Mississippi State, and Auburn, as well as Baylor, Georgia Tech and Florida State.  Actually, there is some chance that Vick will attend a prep school next year and become part of 2016′s recruiting class.

The Mustangs will be losing Yanick Moreira, Cannen Cunningham, Justin Martin and Ryan Manuel after this season, so the influx of these four talented high school seniors will go a long way toward keeping the talent flow going on the Hilltop.  They’ll be joined by Jordan Tolbert, the transfer from Texas Tech that is sitting out this season as a transfer.

The Mustangs actually open with a double header next Friday.  The Women’s team plays Northern Colorado with a 6:00 PM tip off.  The Men’s game against Lamar follows approximately 30 minutes after the end of the Women’s game or about 8:30 PM.

ALSO:

*.    Various media members have ranked SMU’s Men’s team as follows:  SB Nation (Ricky O’Donnell) 10, NBC Sports (Rob Dauster) and Bleacher Report (Jason King) 16, Sports Illustrated 17, USA Today (Scott Gleeson) 19, CBS Sports (Gary Parrish) and ESPN 20, and Dick Vitale 22.

*     The game time for the homecoming football game against South Florida has been set at 7:00 PM (CST).  That game time was obviously set by television executives as it undoubtedly wreaks havoc with reunion parties originally scheduled for Saturday night.  The homecoming parade begins at 4:30 PM.