Despite posting a 24-point lead against the University of Alabama at Birmingham in the second half, which put the Mustangs up 50-26 with a little over 14 minutes remaining, SMU surrendered their second consecutive loss in a 63-62 decision Saturday night in Moody Coliseum.
Derek Williams led the Mustangs with 23 points, but missed what would have been a game-winning layup with one second left, leading to the team’s third consecutive Conference USA loss. SMU fell to 6-10 overall and 0-3 in conference play, while the Blazers improved to 15-2 and 3-0 in C-USA.
“We had the game,” Papa Dia told the Dallas Morning News. “We had them beat. Right now, it just feels funny because I’m like, ‘How does that happen?'”
Dia finished the night with 11 points, giving him his 11th double-digit scoring game of the season and 29th of his career. The 6-foot-9-inch forward has also scored at least 10 points in eight of his last nine games.
SMU led 34-20 at halftime, going up by a game-high 24 points before UAB’s Cameron Moore sealed the win for his team with a transition layup with 1:11 remaining. Elijah Millsap’s 16 second-half points and Moore’s six points ignited the Blazers’ rally, giving UAB their fourth straight win and moving them to third place in conference standings.
With zero conference wins, SMU remains in ninth place ahead of Rice, Tulane and East Carolina.
Despite having one win in C-USA at this time last season, the Mustangs shot 55 percent from the field against UAB, their second-best performance of the season. Led by Williams with five three-pointers, SMU recorded a 54 percent success rate from the long range, the team’s best performance of the season.
The Mustangs will take on the Rice Owls (6-11, 0-4) tonight in hopes of returning to Dallas on Saturday with their first conference win.
Rivals since the 1918-19 season, SMU returns to Houston having won three of the last four games against the Owls. Last season, SMU dropped a 69-57 decision to Rice on the road. The last time that SMU defeated Rice was in 2008 in a 63-58 victory.
With both teams having yet to win a game in conference play, stakes are high as SMU enters their fourth conference game after holding previous C-USA opponents to 18.5 points under their scoring average.
Williams continues to lead the Mustangs in scoring, with an average of 15.8 points per game. He remains ranked in the Top 10 in C-USA in both scoring and assists (3.2 per game). Teammates Mouhammad Faye and Dia have been posting 12-point averages per game. In comparison, Tamir Jackson and Arsalan Kazemi lead Rice with 11.5 points and 10 points, respectively.