Having trounced the LSU Tigers, the SMU Mustangs took to the court two days later to face off against the University of California-Berkley Golden Bears and emerged victorious again 67-65.
This game was even tougher.
SMU looked sluggish to start the game. Inside the first eight minutes, the Mustangs committed three turnovers and missed a lot of outside jump shots. This allowed the Golden Bears to jump out to a 15-6 lead.
Then, SMU turned it on.
A three-pointer by Nic Moore cut the lead down to four at 15-11.
The crowd at Moody was somewhat stagnant to open the game, and even with California’s lead down to four, they remained static.
It wasn’t until Keith Frazier nailed a three from the corner and drew the foul that the crowd woke up.
And when you wake the crowd, you’re in trouble.
Frazier didn’t hit the free throw, but it didn’t matter. The crowd was awake.
Frazier hit a free throw on the team’s next trip down, and it was a three-point lead for California.
SMU finally took their first lead on a Ben Moore turnaround jumper.
Tyrone Wallace quickly answered with a two, but was countered with a Frazier jumper.
The Mustangs went into the half 32-29 and on the upward trend.
SMU came into the second half and picked up right where they left off, as they forced a turnover and Moore lobbed an alley-oop to Markus Kennedy.
The Mustangs got a little sloppy and gave up two turnovers allowing California to score six straight points and cut the lead to one. Nevertheless, the crowd rose up to show supports, and Shawn Williams got a lay-up.
The score remained within three points over the next few minutes before Moore started showing why he’s one of the most dynamic point guards in the AAC.
In consecutive offensive possessions, Moore drove before passing it to Kennedy inside for a make and then hit a three. The latter put the score at 49-43.
California kept fighting, and eventually Jabari Bird put up six points out of the Golden Bear’s nine that gave them a 53-50 lead.
Then it seemed like a variety of Mustangs knocked down big shots only to have Bird answer the call.
The Mustangs tied up the game off of free throws from Nick Russell, and with the crowd as loud as it has been this season, SMU held California without points on it’s next possession.
With the scored tied, it was the senior Russell who took the lead with a reverse lay-up.
SMU had to hold California scoreless, but Justin Cobbs had other plans.
Cobbs hit a cold-blooded three to give California a one-point lead with 15.6 seconds left.
The Mustang faithful didn’t shrivel and die. They got louder.
With less than seven seconds left, it was the man who SMU has leaned on all season, Nic Moore, who knocked down a three from the corner. That sent the crowd into haywire-mode as SMU held California scoreless to advance.
With yet another victory under their belt, SMU moves on to the NIT semis. SMU will play Clemson Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.