True team win propels Mustangs over Tulane

The phrase “team win” is often just a way of giving every player credit for a win, even if a couple players did little to actually help. But a “team win” is the best way to describe SMU’s 66-52 win over Tulane Wednesday night in New Orleans. Six players scored between six and 18 points. SMU made 22 field goals, 18 of which were assisted. Six players also had two or more assists. If numbers like those don’t signify a team win, then the phrase should be forgotten.

At this point, Keith Frazier’s situation is old news. Sterling Brown started in his place again on Wednesday. In Saturday’s win over East Carolina, Brown and guard Ryan Manuel stepped up and replaced Frazier’s scoring. SMU would be in a favorable spot come March should Brown and Manuel continue to replicate their respective performances from Saturday.

But, as Wednesday showed, they don’t have to. Replacing Frazier can be a team effort. Everyone can play a role in replacing his scoring and defense, not just Brown and Manuel.

While this was a good win because of SMU’s previous road struggles, it wasn’t anything flashy. The Mustangs shot 43.1 percent from the field, a middle-of-the-road number. They missed a fair share of layups, but otherwise executed the basics well. They patiently moved the ball on most possessions, made the extra pass and constantly attacked the rim. Markus Kennedy missed a couple layups but still provided his usual spark off the bench with 14 points. Yanick Moreira also chipped in 14 and eight boards. Cannen Cunningham showed some energy with a seven-point, 10-rebound performance. The big men deserve a lot of credit for their aggressiveness that got Tulane’s big men in foul trouble from the start.

Tulane shot 33.3 percent from the field and managed only an 11:9 assist-to-turnover ratio. SMU didn’t play lockdown defense, as the Green Wave missed a fair share of open shots, but Tulane never got into a groove offensively either. Credit SMU’s “team defense” and execution for keeping Tulane uncomfortable.

Since the Frazier news broke, team-centric play has been the difference for SMU, which is faced with the loss of a key player for the second time this season. During Kennedy’s early-season absence, SMU sometimes looked disjointed. Now 10 weeks into the season, every player has grown into a role in which he is comfortable, and each of those roles is an essential piece to the team. But most importantly, the Mustangs have a leader in Nic Moore, whose uncanny poise in recent games has helped keep the team calm on the court through the adversity.

Moore hasn’t been a lights-out shooter recently, but was still an effective scorer in Wednesday’s 66-52 road win over Tulane, scoring 18 points. The stat of the day, though, was his 7:1 assist-to-turnover ratio and zero fouls committed. Since a turnover-filled first half at Temple on Jan. 14, Moore has two turnovers and has been called for one foul. That’s poise and execution, which is what SMU must keep showing to keep playing at a high level without one of its stars.

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