Just four games into the season, SMU is already in serious trouble. The Mustangs lost to Lipscomb 79-73 Saturday night, dropping to 2-2 on the season, with neither loss coming to an impressive opponent.
Lipscomb looked like the crisper team throughout the contest. Despite having a smaller and less athletic squad, the Bisons ran smooth sets on offense that got their players good looks and competed hard on defense.
“I thought they played better defensively in our game than they had all year by far,” Tim Jankovich said.
Jahmal McMurray, who lit up Western Carolina in SMU’s last game, made just three of his 19 shots, and was called for an offensive foul on one of SMU’s late possessions. This is the yin and the yang of McMurray; he can shoot his team to a win, and shoot it out of a game.
Perhaps even more worrisome than McMurray’s off night, Isiaha Mike, the hyped Duquesne transfer, took just one shot and had four turnovers. Mike just has not been able to find his place in the offense.
“As a group, we’ve got to play a more fluid offensive game to help everyone get better shots,” Jankovich said
SMU took a 36-29 lead in the first half behind a furious, 13-0 run that spanned nearly five minutes. The Mustangs were sticking to Lipscomb players as they curled around screens, contesting jumpshots and going after loose balls and rebounds hard.
However, they could not keep up that level of defense throughout the game. The Bisons scored 50 second half points on 56 percent shooting, as the Mustangs could not string together enough stops to make a run.
The game was tied with five minutes left, but Lipscomb continuously got free throws and layups, while SMU struggled to get open shots.
Ethan Chargois led SMU in both points and rebounds, scoring 22 and grabbing 11 boards. Jimmy Whitt chipped in 20 points, six rebounds and five assists. Whitt also switched onto Lipscomb’s leading scorer, Garrison Mathews, and did a good job on him. Mathews finished with 15 points on four for 11 shooting.
“Jimmy did a fantastic job on him,” Jankovich said, “He was just hawking him.”
Losing games to Lipscomb and Southern Miss provides a worrisome outlook for the rest of SMU’s season. Neither of those teams come from a conference as deep or talented as the American; SMU’s close losses to Southern Miss and Lipscomb will turn into blowouts against teams at the top of the American.
“We have potential but we’re just not near where we need to be,” Jankovich said.
Jarrey Foster will come back, but the team can’t expect him to be the savior. He will have to ease his way back into form after a serious knee injury, and Foster has not shown the scoring chops to carry a team in the way that SMU needs.
These two losses may have doomed its chances at an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, and the Mustangs will have to play a lot better going forward.