Gritty SMU Team falls to Northern Colorado, 57-44

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Sporting a new team consisting of five first-years, the SMU women’s basketball team opened the season against the Northern Colorado Bears on Friday night. After a physical game, the Mustangs lost 57-44.

With both teams looking eager to get the season going, the game started off sloppily with multiple fouls and turnovers. There was also sloppy ball handling from both ends of the court.

The Bears took advantage of the Mustang’s play and opened the game with a 6-0 run. Shortly after SMU guard Morgan Bolton scored two for the Mustangs’ first points of the season.

After missing the majority of last season with an injury, Destiny Hives-McCray emerged as a team leader, with noticeable toughness on both ends of the court; not only was she calling the plays at the defensive end and shined on offense.

Northern Colorado’s D’Shara Strange — who scored 13 points on the night — was the star of the show early, scoring the first nine points for the Bears as they opened with a 9-4 lead.

For the Mustangs the first half was a struggle to defend the Bears. Once Northern Colorado established the ability to utilize their length inside, the perimeter opened up and threes rained down.

Entering the half, the Mustangs trailed 33-16. The Bears shot 45.2 percent from the field compared to SMU’s 16.7 percent who were unable to knock down a three-pointer.

The second half opened with a jumper by Kiara Perry (nine points and eight rebounds in the game) before the Bears went on a 9-0 run, extending their lead to 39-18.

The Mustangs refused to give up until the offense found a groove.

Starting at 11:18 in the half, SMU had a 20-7 run that cut the lead to 51-43. The run revolved when the Mustangs established an inside-out approach that led to a couple of threes.

But the Mustangs’ run came a little too late when the Bears easily shutout the game on a 6-3 run.

At the final buzzer, SMU walked away with a 57-44 loss.

The Bears finished the game at 31.7 percent shooting, hitting only 17.2 percent of their shots in the second half.

SMU finished at 25 percent shooting, showing a team that may take some time to find offensive identity.

There were a few key takeaways from the performance of the Mustangs.

While young and inexperienced, the team proved gritty; they will be a thorn in every opponent’s side.

Secondly, the team’s performance this season will revolve around two things: the leadership of Hives-McCray (who finished with 13 points and seven rebounds) and the growth of the two first-years Aussies, Alicia and Keely Froling (aka the Twin Towers).

Combined, the twin sisters scored 11 points (all from the free throw line, which exhibited physicality with an inability to finish) and 19 rebounds.

Lastly, while the Mustangs possess size and physicality, they lack an established passer, something that Keena Mays provided last season.

While many nights will be like this one, it will be interesting to watch this team progress as the season wears on.

The SMU Mustangs’ next challenge comes at 2 p.m. this Sunday at home versus UTEP.

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