Mustangs ride second-half stampede to comeback against Temple
After rolling over UConn in front of a record crowd, the 21st ranked Mustangs returned to the court, matching up with the Temple Owls. At one point trailing by 10 in the second half, SMU surged back to emerge with the victory.
Temple opened the game by hitting their first three shots to grab a 7-2 lead before the Mustangs started to show signs of defense.
Ben Moore (eight points, two steals and two blocks), a player who has lacked consistency for most of the season, provided a much needed spark in SMU’s offense with six of the Mustangs’ first ten points.
However, Temple continued to hit jumpers in order to maintain a lead. At the 9:40 mark of the first half, the Owls held a seven point lead at 19-12.
SMU’s frontcourt duo of Markus Kennedy and Cannen Cunningham (who combined for 18 points, eight rebounds, and four blocks) scored the next six points of the game. The lead for the Owls was at two before they stretched it to nine at the 3:26 mark on a three by Jesse Morgan (3-4 from beyond the arc).
Nic Moore (18 points, four assists, and three steals) responded with a trey of his own, but Morgan returned with a second trifecta.
SMU’s offense hit a groove late in the half, but poor defense and turnovers allowed Temple to counter.
At the end of the first, the Mustangs trailed the Owls 33-25.
The second act opened with tough defense from both sides, as three total points were scored in the first three and a half minutes.
Despite a characteristically strong defense to start the half, SMU’s sudden inability to drain free throws allowed Temple to extend the lead to 10 at the under-16 media timeout.
Trailing by double-digits and sensing the need for some offense, the Mustangs rose to the challenge.
At 13:24, Kennedy laid the ball in. The play began with Sterling Brown (eight points and three steals) grabbing the offensive rebound off of Yanick Moreira’s missed second free throw.
The hustle play sent Moody into chaos, and the Mustangs fed off that energy.
Two Temple turnovers and a little Nic Moore later, SMU was on a 7-0 run with the score at 39-36.
With a little over nine minutes left, the Mustangs tied it up at 43 with a Nic Moore free throw. The game then entered a blow-for-blow phase with both teams fighting for every ball; fouls met fouls and clutch threes met clutch threes.
Down by three with under-four left in the game, the Mustangs embarked on a 10-0 run highlighted by two Ryan Manuel (eight points, five rebounds, and four assists) corner treys to grab a 59-52 lead.
SMU was able to hit its late free throws to hold the lead, and when the buzzer sounded they had pulled off the comeback with a 67-58 final score.
The Mustangs ended the game 5-11 from three while holding the Owls to 6-21. Combined with 10 steals and nine blocks, those three stats were arguably the deciding factors in the game.
The now 22-5 (13-2 in the AAC) Mustangs will play Memphis on the road on Feb. 26 with an 8 p.m. tip-off.