On an evening where the presence of ESPN’s College GameDay took top billing, it would have been easy to forget that an actual basketball game was taking place. The Maniacs of Moody had no trouble remembering.
Twenty-fifth ranked SMU entered the coliseum looking to mark their new spot atop the AAC with a win, and UConn arrived attempting to build off their best victory of the season over Tulsa.
The Huskies proved fruitless in their efforts as they lost an appropriately dunk-happy game, 73-55 in front of a single-game, record-breaking crowd of 7,395.
Among the Moody fans, there was no fatigue from GameDay’s morning broadcast as they opened the game with a special rowdiness. This mutualistic relationship between the team and its fans was key; the crowd would energize the team and vice versa.
An alley-oop from Daniel Hamilton (13 points, five rebounds,and four assists) to Amida Brimah opened the scoring, but a more emphatic oop from Nic Moore (10 points and six assists) to Yanick Moreira (13 points and 10 rebounds) quickly answered. Moody responded to that dunk with the first round of exuberant “hurrahs” of the game. There were plenty more to come.
However, poor defense on Ryan Boatwright (19 points and five rebounds) allowed the star to score six of the Huskies’ next seven points with two threes, bringing the score to 10-3.
Answering the call and the crowd, the Mustangs embarked on an 18-2 run highlighted by Sterling Brown’s seven points and a rambunctious standing ovation from the coliseum.
A soft perimeter defense allowed UConn to hit its jumpers to stay in the game, but sloppy turnovers caused by SMU’s characteristically active hands and a boisterous crowd kept them from making a run.
Meanwhile, the length of SMU’s twin towers, Moreira and Markus Kennedy, who finished with a box score filling 13 rebounds, eight rebounds, three assists and two blocks, allowed the Mustangs to tip and dunk their way to a phenomenal first half offense, shooting 14-26 from the floor.
At the half, the team donning the festive red jerseys held a 41-26 lead.
Fueled by a subpar first half, the Huskies exited the locker room feistier and grittier. As a result, they tightened their defense in the lane and didn’t allow second chances while grabbing the offensive rebounds for themselves.
This change in energy allowed UConn to go on a 9-4 run before the first media timeout.
During this run for the Huskies, the fans maintained their monotonous roar but lacked a spark.
With 14 minutes to go, Brown (13 points and four rebounds) corralled an offensive rebound, laid it in with a foul and hit the free throw. That was the sandpaper to the match.
Following Brown’s three-point play, Nic Moore’s emergence from a tie-up for the ball — chest held high like a lineman who won the fight for a fumble — fueled the fire.
These plays came early as part of an eventful 22-4 run for SMU capped by another alley-oop from Nic Moore to Brown, which resulted in a vigorous “Seven Nations Army” chant from the packed house,.
With 5:58 remaining, the score was 67-39.
UConn followed Moore’s trey with an 11-1 run, but it was too little too late.
Of note though, was Kennedy’s leg injury at 1:39, which Larry Brown later dismissed as cramping. He missed a layup and went to the floor. When timeout was called, he limped his way to the locker room before returning to the bench before the game ended.
With about a minute left, Coach Brown subbed in Jonathan Wilfong, Jean Michael-Mudiay, and Kevin Dunleavy Jr. As any fan can tell you, that’s the equivalent of Brown throwing in the white flag for the opposing team.
When the final buzzer sounded, a triumphant SMU team won 73-55 in front of a lively Moody crowd.
In a complete team effort, the Mustangs outshot UConn, 48.1 percent to 34 percent while holding the Huskies to 7-25 from beyond the arc.
Now 21-5 and 12-2 in conference, SMU plays at Moody on the 19th versus an upstart Temple. Tip-off is at 6 pm.