No. 14 SMU (26-4, 16-1 AAC) started with a bang, as Jarrey Foster slammed home a lob from Shake Milton for the game’s first points. The Ponies did not look back from there, beating Tulsa (14-15, 8-9 AAC) 93-70, and clinching a share a of the AAC title.
Semi Ojeleye paced SMU with 26 points on an ultra-efficient 9-for-9 shooting. He poured in three three-pointers. Shake Milton recorded the first double-double of his career with 15 points and 10 assists. Each of SMU’s starting five recorded double digit scoring totals on better than 50 percent shooting. Corey Henderson led Tulsa in scoring with 17 points off the bench.
Tulsa played SMU close for the first six minutes of the game, but with the score tied 14-14, SMU went on a 10-0 run. The run included two 3-pointers from Sterling Brown and one from Ojeleye. From that point on, SMU never led by less than seven points.
Against Cincinnati, Tulane and Houston, SMU had to overcome first half deficits to get wins. In its last two games, they have broken that trend. Ojeleye said the defensive end is the key to starting hot.
“Whether or not shots go in, we can’t control on a night to night basis,” Ojeleye said. “Playing together on the defensive, I think that’s helped us get off to better starts.”
SMU continued its hot play throughout the game. The Mustangs 47-28 going into halftime. The lead only grew in the second half, eventually ballooning up to 36 points.
Junior Etou, Tulsa’s leading scorer on the season, picked up two fouls early in the game. SMU took advantage of his absence, holding Tulsa to just seven points in his nearly eight minute absence in the first half.
Jarrey Foster finished with 18 points, many of which came off the dribble. Foster usually scores off of spot-up threes and transition buckets, but he was able to create shots for himself tonight.
“He can do that,” Tim Jankovich said. “Sometimes it’s just the confidence that’s flowing though your veins. Some nights you have a little bit more than others. Once you start to feel it you get a little more aggressive.”
Perhaps the most spectacular play, though, came when Shake Milton dove on the ground for the ball, maintained his dribble and bounced it through his legs while sitting on his backside. He then passed it Sterling Brown, who threw it up to Semi Ojeleye for a crushing alley-oop dunk.
“I kinda lost my mind,” Ojeleye said. “He’s just on the ground cool as a cucumber. That’s Shake for you.”
SMU’s final regular season game will be against Memphis on Saturday. It is senior night, and Sterling Brown, Ben Moore and Jonathan Wilfong will be honored.
“It’s always so emotional when you’re a senior,” Jankovich said. “Particularly when you’ve loved where you’ve been, and you’ve had a run like these guys have had.”