A constant issue for SMU this season has been stringing together two good halves of basketball. Wednesday against TCU, that ugly trend reared its head, as the Mustangs (6-4) could not hold on to a six-point halftime lead, falling 67-59 to the Horned Frogs.
SMU’s went cold in the second half as TCU began to hit 3s. The Mustangs could not string together enough stops and scores to make a late run.
It took a while for the game’s pace to pick up, as the teams were tied 13-13 after eight minutes. Then, the Mustangs got hot. An Isiaha Mike 3-pointer sparked a 10-0 SMU run, which was aided by stellar defense. TCU went three minutes without scoring. The first half was SMU’s best defensive half of the season, as Mustang players closed out on shooters well and got TCU’s bigs in foul trouble to negate points inside. The Horned Frogs shot 12-33 from the field in the half, going into halftime with a 35-29 deficit.
In the second half, TCU rebounded quickly. It took SMU more than six minutes to make a field goal, and two straight Demond Bane buckets gave the Horned Frogs their first second half lead. SMU was not able to stop the bleeding. Back-to-back 3s from Jaylen Fisher and Kouat Noi gave TCU a 52-47 lead with 9:47 remaining, and it never relinquished the advantage.
SMU was not able to work its way back into the game because of stagnant offense. In crunch time, possessions consisted of the team passing and cutting seemingly without purpose, until the ball got into McMurray’s hands for a bailout at the end of the shot clock. McMurray took 22 shots, scoring a team-high 19 points.
“We didn’t do a good job of getting in the flow,” Jankovich said.
SMU’s best offense was offensive rebounds. The Mustangs collected 20 of those, but too many of them ended with the ball getting kicked back to the perimeter. SMU did not make its 3s, going just 4-25. That was by design for TCU.
“The main thing was we really wanted to guard the 3,” TCU coach Jamie Dixon said. “We didn’t McMurray to go get 3s and he was 2-11.”
A big reason for SMU losing was that it got very little production out of several of its key players. Jarrey Foster scored just two points and Ethan Chargois had four. To make matters worse, Jimmy Whitt shot just 2-12 from the field. Whitt and Chargois had been top-three players for Mustangs in the young season, and Foster is being counted on to have a big role coming off of his injury. The team can’t expect to do well when three of those players aren’t on their games.
One player who did show out was Feron Hunt. The freshman, who was once committed to TCU, scored 11 points on 5-6 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds. Hunt is always around the ball, soaring for rebounds and finishing strong inside. While the team lost the game, Hunt certainly showed that he will be a factor in this rivalry for years to come.
“He was tremendous,” Jankovich said. “He continues to get better. I think he’s got an outstanding future.”
SMU will need a lot more than Hunt if it wants to compete with the TCU-level teams on its schedule. Non-conference play ends soon, and SMU will start to have competitive games every night. The team showed flashes that it can be solid against quality opponents, but it needs to put it together for a whole game.