One small step for SMU…

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The SMU Mustangs clinched their first Conference USA win of the season in a 73-65 victory over the Rice Owls Wednesday night in Houston.

Derek Williams posted a game-high 22 points to help lift the Mustangs to 7-10 overall and 1-3 in conference play. Papa Dia added 21 points and nine rebounds. Robert Nyakundi had 13 points, sinking three shots from the long range.

Rice, who remains winless in C-USA play (0-5), fell to 6-12 overall. Leading the Owls was Arsalan Kazemi with 15 points and nine boards.

Despite ending the first half with the score tied at 34-34 and the Mustangs posting more turnovers than the Owls, SMU prevailed early in the second half, gaining a quick lead to put them on top for the remaining 20 minutes of play. Rice managed to come within five points of SMU with just 30 seconds remaining, but a series of successful free throws from Williams and teammate Paul McCoy sealed a win for the Mustangs.

SMU finished the game shooting just over 50 percent from the field, while hitting 14 of their 20 free throws. While the Mustangs managed to outshoot the Owls, Rice pulled down 10 more rebounds than the Mustangs and generated 14 points, compared to SMU’s 10, off of turnovers. Rice also racked up 34 points from their bench, while SMU only collected 11 from their reserves.

The Mustangs return to Moody Coliseum for a three-game home stand, starting Saturday against Houston Baptist, before resuming conference play against the University of Central Florida and Memphis next week.

The Huskies from Houston Baptist arrive in Dallas with a 2-0 record in the Great West Conference, but are just 3-13 overall, having most recently lost to Green Bay University by 11 points on the road. As of Jan. 19, Houston Baptist is 0-7 as the visiting team.

SMU holds a slight advantage, as the Mustangs are an even 5-5 when playing on their home court, despite losing two of their last three home games this season. The last time the Mustangs won in Moody Coliseum was on Jan.9 against North Carolina Central.
So far this season, the Huskies have been averaging 78 points per game in comparison to SMU’s 66 points per game. Houston Baptist also holds a defensive advantage, pulling down an average of 10 more rebounds than the Mustangs but giving up nearly 15 turnovers per game, three more than SMU’s average.

The Mustangs defeated the Huskies last season in Moody Coliseum in the opening game of the SMU Tip-Off Classic in a 79-60 decision, giving the team their first win of the season.

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