March Madness returns to Moody Friday as SMU men's basketball prepares to take on Santa Clara
Published: Friday, March 25, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 17:11
Just one win away from the CollegeInsider.com Tournament's championship game, the Mustangs remain the only Division I men's basketball team in Texas left playing in the postseason.
SMU will look to extend their postseason surge to four consecutive wins as they prepare to host the Santa Clara University Broncos (22-14) in the semifinal round Friday at Moody Coliseum at 7 p.m.
Papa Dia, with a CollegeInsider.com Tournament-record 21 rebounds in his team's 57-50 win over The University of Northern Iowa last weekend, helped propel the Mustangs (20-14) to their third consecutive postseason win in program history, a feat that has not been accomplished since SMU advanced to the NCAA Final Four in 1956.
"I see the chemistry," Head Coach Matt Doherty said about what has led to his team's success. "I see probably one of the closest teams I've ever coached and I think you see an identity that has developed through our offense and defense. But mainly its confidence."
The Mustangs' first postseason win, a 64-57 overtime victory over Oral Roberts University on March 16 sparked the run, as SMU then went on to defeat Jacksonville University and Northern Iowa to get to where they are today in the semifinal round against the Santa Clara Broncos.
Dia, who despite experiencing back pain early on in the tournament, continues to lead the Mustangs with 18.7 points and 9.7 rebounds averaged per game.
It was also the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year who hit two clutch free throws to lift the team over Jacksonville, 63-62, in the second round.
Add teammate Robert Nyakundi to the mix, the NCAA's eighth-best regular season three-point percentage shooter, and freshman point guard Jeremiah Samarrippas and it's no wonder SMU has been outscoring their opponents 61.3 to 56.3 points over a three-game span.
The team as a whole has been averaging 64.9 points per game. In the win over Northern Iowa, the Mustangs snapped a streak of seven games that were either tied or decided by one possession at the end of regulation. Prior to Northern Iowa's win, SMU defeated Oral Roberts and Jacksonville by only eight points.
The third meeting between the schools has the series tied a 1-1 with SMU winning in 1897 in a 78-70 victory and Santa Clara coming away with the 64-61 win the following season.
But going up against Santa Clara, a team that has not made a postseason run since 1956, the Mustangs will have their work cut out for them on defense in guarding against the Broncos' tandem of Kevin Foster and Evan Roquemore.
"[Roquemore] and Foster have the green light and they can really score the basketball and they do a good job crashing the offensive boards," Doherty said. "You've got two guards taking a lot of long shots and long rebounds and three guys crashing the boards so we've got to deal with that."
Averaging 20.7 points per game, Foster, the nation's sharpest three-pointer shooter, poses a threat to SMU. Standing at 6-foot-2-inches, Foster, only a sophomore has made, and attempted, more three-pointers than any player in the country.
Compared to Nyakundi, who has shot 93-of-190 on the season, Foster has made 132 of his 355 shots from behind the arc.
Joining Foster in the backcourt, Roquemore, a 6-foot-3-inch freshman point guard, averaging 11.8 points and five assists per game. In his team's 95-91 win over San Francisco, he scored a career-high 30 points, followed by Foster with 27.
The Mustangs, with plenty of experience in the postseason defending an onslaught of good guards, will also be up against Marc Trasolini, the 6-foot-9-inch forward with a 12.5 point per game average.
"Their guards are really good," Doherty said. "But Northern Iowa had very good guards, Jacksonville had good guards and Oral Roberts had guards who can score. We'll have to play well on the defensive end."
SMU, riding a two-game winning streak on their home court, has recorded 15 victories at Moody this season, including two wins in the opening rounds of the CollegeIsider.com Tournament. The 15-6 home mark ties the 1984-85 school record of 15-1.
"Everyone has momentum or they wouldn't be this far along," Doherty said. "We're very glad to be playing at home again, practicing in our own practice facility and sleeping in our own beds. Hopefully it pays off Friday night."
Friday's game will mark the team's 22nd game on their home court this season, with SMU going 15-6 when hosting.
Santa Clara was able to defeat San Francisco on the road last weekend, but struggled away from home, posting only a 5-6 record as the visiting team.
But for the seniors who were part of Doherty's first recruiting class, Friday's game could be their last.
"When you're taking over a program and rebuilding and have that first real recruiting class, your goal is to see them grow and develop to the point where you're successful," Doherty said. "Regardless of what happens Friday, they've done their job and they've done it in a first class manner and I couldn't be more proud of them."
If the Mustangs advance to the final game, they will face the winner between Iona College and East Tennessee State University on March 30. The location of the game has yet to be determined.
SMU students can get into Friday's game for free with their student ID. All other tickets are $10.
CIT Tournament Results
Santa Clara 88, Air Force 75
Buffalo 49, W. Michigan 48
SMU 63, Jacksonville 62
San Francisco 77, Hawaii 74
SMU 57, Northern Iowa 50
E. Tennessee State 82, Ohio 73
Iona 78, Buffalo 63
Santa Clara 95, San Francisco 91