SMU men's basketball suffers tough loss to UTEP 56-59 for final season game
Published: Sunday, March 6, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 17:11
The SMU men's basketball team managed to come back from a 14-point deficit in the second half in Saturday's game against the University of Texas at El Paso in Moody Coliseum, but "sometimes you have to give the opponent credit," Head Coach Matt Doherty said.
In both team's final game of the regular season, the UTEP Miners (23-8, 11-5 Conference USA) scraped by in a 59-56 victory over the Mustangs Saturday afternoon in Moody Coliseum.
The Mustangs' offense struggled the entire 40 minutes of play.
Shooting only 42.6 percent from the field, SMU, who led the league in field goal and three-point percentage, failed to come within more than three points of the Miners for a second-half comeback.
"We work on those situations so much that [the team] executes them very calmly," Doherty said. "I'm proud of the way we fought back."
With only one bucket from SMU in the first seven minutes of play, SMU helplessly watched as the Miners went on an 11-point run to put them in the lead by ten at the break.
The second half put the Mustangs in position to win, as a series of three-pointers from Mike Walker and Collin Mangrum and defensive stops from Papa Dia had SMU within two possessions on several occasions with just under 13 minutes left.
The home team was never able to pull ahead.
In the first half, SMU shot only 30.4 percent from the field, while pulling down only 10 rebounds compared to UTEP's 16.
The Miners' Christian Polk scored 14 of his 18 points of the night in the first half.
SMU came within one point with five seconds left off a three-pointer from Walker, but a foul on Dia sent UTEP's Randy Culpepper to line for two shots.
UTEP nailed both free throws to seal their third consecutive win, leaving them as the No. 3 seed team heading into the Conference USA Basketball Championships next week.
If SMU and UTEP advance deep enough into the tournament, it is possible the teams could meet for a third time this season.
"I know they [UTEP] don't want to see us again," Dia said.
Despite scoring more points in the second half, SMU, who was led by Dia with a game-high 19 points, had 18 costly turnovers and failed to gain the defensive advantage on the boards to overcome a team they have not defeated since 2008.
All four of Dia's blocks also came in the second half.
Despite his team losing, the game was still meaningful to Dia, as his mother made the trip from Senegal to see her son play live for the first time in his career.
"It was the first time I turned and saw my mom on the sidelines," Dia said. "It was a different feeling I've never had before."
In the last three games, SMU has only lost by a combined total of eight points; each of those games could have been won or sent into overtime with a successful three-pointer.
"We've been lethargic the last four games," Mangrum said. "We didn't play the full 40 minutes. I guess if we're going to get them, it's good to get them in the conference tournament."
Mangrum, despite five turnovers, had 14 points and six rebounds against UTEP.
"He brought in a spirit and great energy to our team, and he's a great shooter," Doherty said about Mangrum.
"When he and Jeremiah found their place in this team in mid- January, that's when we started winning on a consistent basis."
Saturday's game also marked the last time the team's six seniors will play on their home court in the regular season.
Dia, Mangrum and Walker, in addition to Ryan Harp, Myles Luttman and Tomasz Kwiatkowski were all recognized for their contribution to the team in a pre-game celebration.
The Mustangs, having earned the No. 7 seed in the conference tournament will see No. 9 Rice on Wednesday in El Paso at 8 p.m. If SMU advances, the Mustangs will play against No. 2 University of Tulsa on Thursday.
"We're still going to keep our heads high," Dia said. "We're going to go in there thinking we're going to win the tournament."