Damiyne Durham swished a 3-pointer, Shake Milton traveled, and SMU was suddenly trailing Cal State Baskersfield 37-31 with less than ten minutes left. With the way SMU was shooting the ball, the 6-point deficit felt like a 60-point deficit. After that basket, SMU allowed only two more then entire game and came back to win 49-43, snapping a two-game losing streak and improving to 5-3.
Coming into the game, Cal State Baskersfield was 5-3, but the Roadrunners resume included losses to lowly Wright State and North Dakota. SMU was expected to win handily, yet at halftime held just a 23-22 lead. Throughout the night, Cal State Baskersfield’s defense forced SMU into tough shots. The Mustangs had to rely on defense and free throws to go on the 18-6 run that won them the game.
Some might consider a loss like this frustrating. SMU had blown out smaller schools in previous games, but head coach Tim Jankovich thought that there was a satisfaction to it.
“My favorite wins are when nothing’s going right and your guys are able to stick together,” Jankovich said.
SMU had a tough schedule leading up to this game. The last two games had been disappointing losses on the road to USC and Boise State. Just one of their past five games had been played at home. The team did not get back to Dallas until the wee hours of Thursday morning, Jankovich did not credit fatigue for his team’s poor 31.8% shooting performance.
“To me, that sounds like an excuse,” he said.
SMU’s next five games come at home, and that easier stretch can be an opportunity for them to get back on track.
SMU’s go-to scorers this season, Shake Milton and Semi Ojeleye combined for just 22 points on 5 of 14 shooting. Ben Moore’s defense and hustle helped immensely, as the senior grabbed twelve rebounds, blocked three shots and made a pair of free throws to tie the game up with 4:19 left.
“The first step to getting our confidence back is a win,” Moore said.