Kendric Davis himself, in tandem with SMU, was coming off his worst performance of the season. A year that has, thus far, been marked by top flight offensive production came to a grinding halt against Cincinnati last Tuesday. As SMU limped to a 43-point performance, Davis was held scoreless for the first time in his Mustang career.
That all changed from the jump on Saturday, as SMU packed in 82 points and Davis raced out to 18 points, 13 assists and nine rebounds in 35 minutes of play. The difference, in Davis’ words, was a four hour meeting with SMU head coach Tim Jankovich this week. Jankovich was a bit more coy in the meeting’s impact.
“He just wants to learn and talk, so that actually happens quite a bit. I certainly don’t want to get that much credit at all for his performance. I wish I had a magic wand of if I talk to somebody they are going to play great,” Jankovich joked after the game.
Either way, Davis’ mantra of the team going how he does held true once again. With Davis working in high gear, the rest of the offensive attack seemed enlivened. Tyson Jolly led the team with a game-high 20 points. CJ White hit five triples, on 5-7 shooting, to add 15 of his own. And the steady hand of Isiaha Mike put in his workman-like 14 points on his reliably efficient 5-8 shooting.
For all the scoring though, it was clearly Davis firmly at the center of it all. With a plus-minus of plus 25, his highest of the season, the sophomore led an offense that put together an astounding 1.262 points per possession.
Yet, even with all the offense in the second half, the game was not always as inevitable as the final score would indicate. In fact, Tulane led for almost 15 minutes in the first half and took a three-point lead into the intermission. The combination of KJ Lawson and hometown product Nic Thomas assailed a porous first half defense. A 7-0 run right out of the break from SMU, however, quelled any hopes of an upset bid.
“You look at the defensive numbers and they shoot 54 percent from three in the first half. They play that matchup zone and you see a lot of teams start really slow against them because it is different,” Jankovich said. “So I know we needed to play defense… we didn’t do that (in the first half).”
A stronger effort on that side of the ball, anchored by a Feron Hunt that saw increased minutes, and a more inclined offense propelled SMU to a sixth conference win. As for whether or not SMU had Cincinnati’s blowout loss on its mind on Saturday, Hunt said he certainly did.
“You lose by 20 and I think that hits a nerve. We wanted to show that we were competitive and we were going to fight. I think we showed that today,” Hunt said.
Sitting now at fourth place in the conference, the Mustangs will now have a week off before heading to Philadelphia to play Temple on February 8.
“I look at it like a recharge week. We start in the summer… it will be a chance to take a couple of days off and charge our batteries,” Jankovich said.