SMU basketball update: A Close One? No Problem
Ponies Top Brown in OT, 60-56; C-USA Next
CUSA-fans.com has a new staff of team correspondents this year to help bring you, the fan, more detailed Conference USA sports coverage. Today, our SMU Correspondent Rick Atkinson brings you his latest SMU basketball update.
DALLAS – It evidently didn’t rate sending a reporter from Dallas’ newspaper of record, but there was a whale of a basketball game Saturday night at Moody Coliseum.
Center Donatas Rackauskas coolly sank a 3 from the top of the key with six seconds remaining in overtime to push SMU past Brown University (5-9) in the Mustangs’ final non-conference game of the season.
“That was definitely one of the biggest shots of my career,” Rackauskas said.
He added he was never trusted with the last shot in high school.
“I don’t know why,” Rackauskas said. “I think I’m a pretty good shooter.”
Said SMU head coach Matt Doherty, “This win was big because it showed our guys that, [with] all their hard work they’ve invested, they’re not gonna give in.”
SMU’s record moves to 11-3, including three nail-biter wins.
“I gave the guys a grade of A+ for the first semester,” Doherty said.
The Mustangs trailed by seven midway through the second half, but battled back to lead, 50-49, on Jon Killen’s 3 with 1:50 left. Brown’s Marcus Becker knotted the score with a free throw at the 46-second mark.
After an SMU turnover, Brown had a chance to win in regulation, but Damon Huffman’s shot at the buzzer was late.
Devon Pearson led SMU with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Jon Killen and Ike Ofoegbu added 10 points each.
Ofoegbu ruled with 11 boards, including seven on the offensive end. The Mustangs outrebounded Brown, 40-27.
“I think we won the game tonight with our offensive rebounding and … some key defensive stops,” Doherty said.
Killen and Derrick Roberts had five assists each.
Respect for Brown
“We, as a staff, have a great deal of respect for Brown and [head coach Craig Robinson],” Doherty said. “This is like [North Carolina] A&T, where they come in and you look at their record … and you probably don’t give them a whole lot of respect.”
“Well, our staff and our players gave ‘em respect.”
Doherty reminded that Brown had beaten Providence and were close at Michigan State.
“I told our team yesterday, I’d be thrilled with a one-point win,” he said. “We knew it was going to be a grind. Anybody that plays the Princeton offense, you gotta guard for 35 seconds.”
“They’re very patient,” Ofoegbu said. “We had to play defense for a very long time.”
SMU has now prevailed in tight wins over Illinois State, TCU and Brown, and is 4-1 in games decided by five points or less.
Asked if the team was still benefiting from last week’s “toughness practice”, Ofoegbu laughed.
“We’d better,” he said.
Added Pearson, “We’re mentally tougher and we’re tougher, physically. [The practice] showed who were the men and who were the boys. We all came out men. Everybody got through it.”
Next game: Conference Opener - Wednesday, January 10, 7 p.m. vs. Southern Miss
Two after that: Saturday, January 13, 5 p.m. @ Houston & Wednesday, January 17, 6:30 p.m. @ UCF
“The style Brown plays can make a team look bad - that deliberate Ivy League style. But, I was really proud of the way SMU hung in there and … hit some big shots in overtime to win it.”
“I like the way Killen’s playing. I think he’s showing a lot of leadership. [And] I think Rack is playing really good right now. You know, Ike looks pretty good.”
(Ronnie Perry has followed SMU hoops since 1957.)
SMU basketball Notes:
*Why ping The Dallas Morning News? Because Dallas’ Division IA team – uh, SMU – deserves more than a box score and a staff/wire report, especially when a game is played right under said paper’s nose. The News did, however, get a reporter through blizzards and avalanches to Boulder, Colo. for UT’s game.
*This was the first meeting between SMU and Brown.
*The Ponies’ 11-3 record is their best since starting 12-3 in 2000-01.
*SMU’s new $900,000 four-sided scoreboard is up and running. The 17-foot high, 25-foot wide beast includes four 8x12 video screens.