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.
* 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.