Traveling all the way to Cheney, Wash., the SMU Mustangs (3-0) defeated the Eastern Washington University Eagles 75-70 Saturday night behind a strong second half using tough-minded basketball.
SMU trailed by as much as nine through the halfway point of the first half after shooting a relatively low 41 percent in the first 20 minutes of play on 12 of 29 attempts.
EWU shot the exact same percentage and even had an equal number of makes and total shots, but outshot the Mustangs beyond the arc with six shots to SMU’s two.
The Eagles were able to take a slim lead into the half at 32-31, causing a bit of concern from Head Coach Rhonda Rompola.
“I thought Eastern Washington played a heck of a game,” Rompola said after the game to SMU Athletics. “On the other hand we came out in the second half and came out so much more aggressive.”
Rompola spoke the truth, as her team began to work toward the basket and get to the foul line much more than they did in the first half.
While the Mustangs were able to get to the free throw line just six times in opening frame, making five of those shots, SMU expanded its attempts to 21 in the second and cashed in with 15 scores. The Eagles, on the other hand, were held to just eight attempts for the game, and only made three.
The other one-sided effort for the Mustangs came on the boards, as SMU outgained Eastern Washington 48 to 28. The Mustangs were nearly able to gain as many offensive rebounds as the Eagles had defensive boards, while six SMU players had four rebounds or more.
“That’s the key is the offensive rebounds,” Rompola said. “When our post players are rebounding… you feed off of that. That’s what gets our break going.”
Individual Mustangs had solid performances as well, including senior forward Akil Simpson’s 16 points and seven rebounds. First-year Kiara Perry also jumped onto the scene with a near double-double on 14 points and nine rebounds. Not to be outdone, senior guard Keena Mays was close to a triple-double of her own with 15 points, eight assists and eight boards.
The Mustangs ended the game from the line with four of five shots, and made up the one-point halftime deficit by outscoring the Eagles 44-38 in the last 20 minutes to win.
SMU’s next opponent will be back in the friendly confines of the Curtis Culwell Center for a 7 p.m. matchup tomorrow against Mississippi Valley State University, and will do it with a perfect 3-0 record.