Mustangs, Mays Kay-O Cougars

Keena Mays dropped in a career-high 34 points on 12-of-17 shooting against Houston. (Courtesy of SMU Athletics)

In front of a raucous pink crowd in Moody coliseum, the SMU Mustangs women’s basketball team (15-10 overall, 6-8 in AAC) was looking for a confidence boosting win against their American Athletic Conference opponent, the Houston Cougars on Saturday.

What they got was more than just a victory.

On the day SMU and Houston celebrated the Play 4Kay and Breast Cancer awareness initiative by dawning pink attire and auctioning off items to benefit breast cancer research, Keena Mays and the SMU defense took it upon themselves to put on a show for the ages as the Mustangs cruised to a season-saving 67-50 victory.

Mays dropped in a career-high 34 points on 12-of-17 shooting, including an incredible seven made three-pointers and eight rebounds.

“I think today I got a lot of open shot,” Mays said. “A couple of them, their hands were down. They were pretty easy 3s. They weren’t really pressured 3s. Shooting-wise, this was [my best game] probably.”

Besides Mays’ herculean effort, senior Akil Simpson dropped in 14 points and 13 rebounds to add yet another double-double to the senior’s outstanding career.

Simpson’s rebounding was a critical part of the Mustangs’ success considering Houston had 11 offensive boards at halftime before head coach Rhonda Rompola expressed to her team how important it was to dominate the glass in the second half, despite leading 34-24 on the scoreboard.

“They get a lot of their points off second chances and third chances,” Rompola said. “We felt like we were allowing them to be physical [in the first half]. It was a point of emphasis for us. We came out and matched up in the second half.

SMU was able to do enough in the final 20 minutes to balloon the lead to as many as 22 using a smothering defense that held Houston, the AAC’s lowest scoring team, to just 24 percent shooting overall and outrebounded the Cougars by 16.

Speaking about what the win meant to her team that had lost three straight coming into the matchup, Rompola didn’t shy away from how important this one is going forward.

“It gets our confidence back,” she said.

The Mustangs will need that confidence going forward as the season winds to a close starting with a road contest against the University of Memphis this coming Saturday.

“We’re trying to secure a bye,” Rompola said of the AAC tournament. “It would be important for us to try and get a game against Memphis. That’s going to be our focus right now.”

But the feeling of getting back on the right track will be a huge boost for the team that was able to get into the National Invitational Tournament last season. With efforts like Mays’ and the defense’s today, that could be the case again.

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