SMU men’s basketball claims 65-51 win over Houston Cougars move up to top of C-USA
Published: Friday, February 18, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 17:11
In their first win over Houston on the Cougar's home court in over a decade, the SMU men's basketball team propelled themselves back into the running of leading Conference USA polls, following a 65-51 win Wednesday night.
Having won six of their last seven games, the Mustangs are guaranteed to finish with at least a .500 mark for the first time since the 2004-2005 season.
"It's exciting to see this group of young men come together as one and see them grow as individuals," head coach Matt Doherty said.
Moving up to the No. 4 spot in conference play, SMU remains just one game out of first place with five games left in the regular season.
Houston (12-12, 4-7 C-USA) slipped to the sixth spot in polls after losing three of their last four home games.
The Mustangs (16-9, 7-4 C-USA) never trailed their opponent as Papa Dia, a contender for Conference USA Player of the Year, posted 27 points, just one point shy of tying his season high.
Dia, who has scored 20 or more points in 12 games this season, is now eighth all-time at SMU with 1,257 career points and sixth in blocks.
Dia finished the night going 12-of-18 in field goals, accompanied by seven rebounds, two blocks and one steal.
Teammate Robert Nyakundi, who was held to just a single field goal in the team's loss to the University of Texas at El Paso last weekend, scored 14 points and had a career-high five steals, the most by any SMU player in one game this season.
As a team, the Mustangs out shot the Cougars 57 to 47 percent from the field.
SMU, the best three-pointing team in the conference and 10th in the NCAA went 6-of-17 from the long range, four of which came from Nyakundi.
SMU, who led the entire game, held a 39-32 lead heading into the break, before the Cougars started chipping away at the lead in the start of the second half.
"I thought we showed tremendous poise in the second half building that lead," Doherty said. "We had some great stops on defense and we took better care of the ball in the second half, which allowed us to set our defense and hold [Houston] to 40 percent from the field."
SMU gained a 50-40 lead following a lay up from Ryan Harp with 12:23 remaining, but Houston responded with a 7-0 run to bring the score within three with 9:18 left, but the Cougars' effort wasn't enough.
"He's like the utility infielder," Doherty said of Harp. "He can play any spot. He's like our sixth starter. He's such a valuable player to us."
SMU used a 15-0 run during the final eight minutes to seal the win to build up to a double-digit lead.
The Cougars got four more points on the board in the final 40 seconds but staged their comeback too late against SMU's defense.
Maurice McNeil led the Cou-gars with 14 points and Darian Thibodeaux added 12.
The Mustangs return to Moody Coliseum on Saturday to host Tulsa University's Golden Hurricanes. Tip off for this weekend's game is scheduled for 2 p.m.