SMU men's basketball gains 4th consecutive win
Published: Friday, February 4, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 17:11
Just like the weather that swept through Dallas earlier in the week, the SMU men's basketball team kept things exciting for the nearly 2,000 in attendance, coming back from a 13-point deficit late in the second half to overcome the East Carolina Pirates, 46-41, Wednesday night in Moody Coliseum.
SMU's fourth consecutive win propels the Mustangs (14-8, 5-3 Conference USA) into a three-way tie for third place in league play. With 14 wins, SMU matched its win total from last year, while holding their opponent to under 50 points for the fourth time this season.
ECU, previously tied with SMU in league standings, slipped to 12-10 overall and 4-4 in league play, snapping the team's two-game road streak and dropping them to the No. 4 spot in C-USA polls.
Trailing for nearly the entire game, SMU, took their first lead of the game with just under three minutes remaining courtesy of a three-pointer from Mike Walker to put the Mustangs on top.
"It was maybe not the most entertaining college basketball game for 35 minutes but the last five or so minutes were pretty darn exciting," head coach Matt Doherty said.
With only a one point lead with 32 seconds remaining, Walker was sent to the line following a foul by ECU's Corvonn Gaines, giving the Mustangs a three point buffer and sealing the team's longest winning streak since they joined C-USA in 2005.
"[Walker's] been playing great for us," Doherty said. "His confidence is at an all time high. He wants the ball and he wants to get fouled and it's fun to see."
SMU's offense came through in the clutch but it was the team's defense that won the game, preventing the Pirates from scoring a single field goal in the final 14 minutes of play.
"Our defense was sensational," Doherty said. "To hold a team like East Carolina to 25 percent from the field and 16 percent in the second half, that's what obviously won the game because our offense wasn't great."
In the opening half of the game, despite the Mustangs posting better numbers in three-pointers and free throws, the Pirates won on the boards, out rebounding the Mustangs 24-19.
The Pirates started the half on an eight-point run but their streak came to a screeching halt, scoring only 11 points in the final 15 minutes.
"I can't really speak on [ECU] being cold, that's not in our control," Walker said. "But as a team, I think we definitely did a good job in the second half. We stepped up and came together and closed up possessions and played good defense."
Dia, a contender for Conference USA Player of the Year, prevailed for the Mustangs late in the second half, scoring a lay up with just over three minutes left to bring SMU within two points. Walker's three-pointer followed, as the Mustangs improved to shooting 38 percent from the field on the night.
"We just went and dug it out," Dia said. "We were playing good defense but we were giving up too many rebounds and in the second half we boxed out better and beat them on the boards."
Despite classes being cancelled for two days, students filled the seats and, according to Doherty, were the reason SMU won their second consecutive game on their home court.
"The students were the MVP of tonight's game," Doherty said. "They came out in force and gave us the home court advantage that we needed. It really energized our defense and at the game gave us a huge lift."
The Mustangs look for their fifth consecutive win next week when they host Tulane on Feb. 9.