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Call them the comeback kids.
SMU’s men’s basketball team was down by five at the half, but a strong start to the second half and a raucous crowd at Moody Coliseum allowed the Mustaangs to win 80-67 over LSU Monday night.
The team was down by one at the half to UC-Irvine just a week ago and came back to win.
The team has also comeback from their three straight losses to end the regular season, which crushed their tournament dreams, to now advancing in the NIT.
SMU Head Coach Larry Brown knew his team struggled with adversity down the stretch this season, but he’s seeing something different out of his team.
“I didn’t see anyone putting their heads down or pointing fingers. All good teams have to deal with adversity,” Brown said. “In this game against a quality team with shot blockers, we shoot 60-something percent in the second half. You can’t bottle a game like that.”
The goal is to send seniors Nick Russell and Shawn Williams out the right way. Monday night though, the pair was putting in their own share of the work, helping the team get the win with a combined 27 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.
“This is the last time I’m in college. I’m not worried about Madison Square Garden,” Russell said. “Every game could be my last. That’s my mentality as I approach every game.”
Keith Frazier and Nic Moore both got hot from beyond the arc, making three and two three-pointers respectively. Overall, SMU shot close to 58 percent from the field, nearly 10 percent higher than the team’s average.
The key was SMU’s ability to share the ball and that was what ultimately made the difference.
“In the second half, and the last four minutes of the first half, we defended against a quality team pretty well,” Brown said. “We got 22 assists, 11 turnovers; that was pretty significant for me.”
Now the team had a quick 48-hour turnaround before facing Cal. in Moody Coliseum tonight for the final home game of the season.
SMU knows that a trip to Madison Square Garden and the NIT semifinals and possibly a championship are on the line, but also sending Russell and Williams out as winners in Moody.
The quick turnaround is tough on the body and can make it hard to prepare for teams, but don’t worry about SMU. Their preparation never changes and Russell said it’s due to one thing.
“We’ve got Coach Brown. That’s a big key for us. We’ve been in this situation many times,” Russell said. “This is nothing for us. We’ve been here before and our coaching staff will get us ready.
“It is better really for us because we don’t have to practice that much,” Russell joked.
With Russell and Williams ending their careers at Moody tonight, Russell took the time to send one message to the
“Thank you. It really has been a privilege to play in this building. The fact that we get to come back in the NIT and play here, at first we weren’t looking forward to it,” Russell said. “I’m glad to be back in Moody again. They make it a real home court advantage.”
The game against Cal. tips off at 8 p.m. and will be featured on ESPN2. If SMU wins, they’ll advance to the NIT semifinals Tuesday in Madison Square Garden in New York City.