Houston Hangs On To Top SMU, 70-68, For Coach Dickey’s First C-USA Road Win
DALLAS – “Big E” liked it.
Elvin Hayes, that is - NBA Hall of Famer, 60s Houston Cougar star and current member of UH’s radio broadcast team.
“I think this game today was one of the most exciting basketball games that I’ve seen in a long time,” Hayes said of the Cougars’ thrilling win. “Both teams were so balanced.”
In a game with 19 lead changes and six ties, and neither team able to get more than six points breathing room, it came down to Mike Walker’s errant 3 for SMU from deep in the corner as time expired.
“I was proud of our guys,” said first-year Houston coach James Dickey. “We didn’t defend extremely well there on the last play. We kind of got out of position. … Luckily for us they missed the shot.”
The Mustangs (10-7, 1-2) missed lots of shots, especially from 3-point range. Walker’s last effort put him at 1-of-7 on the day, all but one from downtown. In the first half, SMU made just 3-of-13 treys; for the game, 6-of-21.
The Mustangs led, 32-31, at halftime.
More Hayes: “[ SMU’s] Papa Dia just was a dominant force inside. And I was surprised the University of Houston out-rebounded them, [33-31].”
“It was just a well-coached basketball game on both sides. ... “I think UH, being shorthanded, Adam Brown stepped up, Alandise Harris stepped up and Darian Thibodeaux just had a tremendous game from the 3-point line.”
Houston (10-6, 2-1), without two of its top scorers, injured Kendrick Washington and Maurice McNeil, relied on senior guard Brown (22 points), freshman forward Harris (19 points, 11 boards) and junior guard Thibodeaux (17 points).
Brown and Thibodeaux combined for 8-of-12 3-point shooting.
Six-nine senior forward Dia registered a game-high 23 points, with 11 boards and a career-high seven blocks. With two minutes left he’d not been whistled for a single foul. His first, a call roundly booed by SMU faithful, came at a pivotal moment as Dia fought for a rebound in front of his own basket with the Mustangs trailing, 67-66.
Another tough play for SMU down the stretch: senior guard Collin Mangrum’s rim interference with a Dia jumper that likely would’ve rolled in giving the Mustangs a 63-60 lead. The play brought SMU coach Matt Doherty to his feet, yelling two words: “Collin Mangrum!”
Dickey saw the turning point as Harris coming up with a loose ball under Houston’s basket with 40 seconds left, then drawing Dia’s second foul. “Alandise just went and battled, battled, battled, got it and then got the two free throws that put us up three, [69-66],” Dickey said. “That was a huge play in the game.”
Junior forward Robert Nyakundi pumped in 22 points for SMU, for his 13 th straight double-digit outing. Mangrum had 13 points and four rebounds in his first start for SMU, after a stellar performance against Memphis. He was the only player on either team to play all 40 minutes.
“Nyakundi can shoot the basketball,” Dickey concluded. “Papa Dia is tough inside. “Matt’s got a really nice team.”
Next two for SMU:
*Wednesday, Jan. 19, @ UAB, 7 p.m.
*Saturday, Jan. 22, Southern Miss, 2 p.m.
Quotable Elvin Hayes
*On whether he had specific memories of beating SMU in the 1967 NCAA Midwest Regional in Kansas City. “You bet. (laughing) When I first walked in I looked up there [at SMU’s post-season banner] and looked at 1967, and I said, ‘Hey, we put those guys out of the tournament a couple of times. … SMU had had a really strong basketball team and they were small. I remember Coach [Guy Lewis] telling us, ‘These guys are tough. These guys are real scrappers. If you go out there and don’t play against them, they will beat you. Man, we went out there and it just really fired us up because we really felt [ SMU] could beat us. They had a tremendous team.”” (Hayes and the Cougars won, 83-75, before losing to eventual champ UCLA in the Final Four.)
* SMU outscored Houston in the paint, 34-10, and out-shot the Cougars overall, 50-40 percent.
* Houston coach James Dickey was an assistant coach at Arkansas under Eddie Sutton, then again at Kentucky and Oklahoma State. He was head coach at Texas Tech from 1991-2001. “I’m ecstatic,” he said of being top dog again. “I’m not glad, I’m ecstatic.” He joked that he hadn’t been completely away from head coaching since leaving Tech. “I was coaching that Stillwater eighth-grade team, so I had that hot-seat the last two years.”