Memphis blew out SMU on the football field 66-45 on November 18. On the court Wednesday night, the Mustangs could not exact revenge, falling 70-67.
After a dreary first half, SMU showed signs of life in the second, but could not pull out the late game stops to complete a comeback. Jahmal McMurray recorded a career high total of 33 points in the loss.
SMU shot a paltry 8-32 from the field in the first half. Memphis’ tight 2-3-zone defense forced many SMU possessions to go deep into the shot clock. The Tigers typically employ a man-to-man scheme, and SMU was not expecting the zone look.
“They’re a man-to-man team, and they played zone all night,” Jankovich said. “You know many possessions they’ve played 2-3 all year? I think one.”
In the second half, the Mustangs made a run. McMurray scored five quick points and Ethan Chargois nailed a 3-pointer, tying the game at 38.
But while SMU heated up on offense, so did Memphis. At one point, the two teams combined to score on seven straight possessions. McMurray and the SMU offense cooled off after the flurry, as Memphis re-extended its lead to nine with less than five minutes left.
However, SMU battled back again. Two late 3-pointers from Chargois and Ben Emelogu cut Memphis’ lead to two with 42 seconds remaining in the game. However on Memphis’ next possession, Kyvon Davenport isolated against Jimmy Whitt and laid the ball in just before the shot clock expired.
Whitt tipped in a layup on SMU’s next possession, and Memphis’ Jamal Johnson split free throws before McMurray’s half-court desperation bid to tie the game just rimmed out.
“I thought it was gonna drop,” McMurray said. “That’s just how the cookie crumbles sometimes.”
McMurray’s scoring kept SMU in the game. He finished the night with a career high 33 points, knocking down nine shots from behind the arc.
“My team needed me to take tough shots and make tough shots,” McMurray said. “And with our key players out, right now it’s all about stepping up.”
This is now four straight losses for SMU, as the Mustangs haven’t won since Shake Milton went down with an injury. It is unfamiliar territory for an SMU program that has been very successful over the past four years.
McMurray, who played for a bad South Florida team before transferring to SMU, is using his experience to teach his younger teammates.
“We’ve been in their shoes before. So we’re just trying to keep their heads up and just tell them that they’re doing the best that they can,” he said.
Jankovich does not feel that his team’s losses are for lack of effort. The Mustangs corralled 20 offensive rebounds tonight, one of the signature statistics for effort.
Coming into the game, Memphis was shooting 28.9 percent from beyond the arc, fourth worst in the nation. Tonight, the Tigers made nine of their twenty long balls.
“Murphy’s Law is in full effect around here as we all know,” Jankovich said. “Lucky us. We’re gonna pick the night where they have their career 3-point shooting night.”
The loss puts SMU at 15-11 on the season and 5-8 in conference. The Mustangs will travel to Central Florida for their next game. Tip-off is at 10 p.m. CT on Saturday.