SMU basketball update: Hurricane Humbler
Tulsa Never Trails, Thumps SMU, 67-60
CUSA Fans SMU Correspondent Rick Atkinson brings you his latest SMU basketball update.
DALLAS - Tulsa’s Golden Hurricane (18-10, 8-7) blew through Moody Coliseum Wednesday night, leaving shorthanded SMU to survey a familiar scene: another loss of a winnable game.
Although the Mustangs trailed Tulsa by as many as 16 points and never led, they closed to within six twice in the second half. Each time SMU was repulsed by clutch Golden Hurricane shooting.
SMU’s Ike Ofoegbu had a game-high 29 points, including four second-half threes. He also grabbed seven boards.
But it wasn’t enough.
Doherty said he was frustrated – again – but proud of his players’ effort. “It would have been very easy this time of year to just quit,” he said. “And they haven’t.”
“I want them to find a reward. Hopefully, just the hard work and the satisfaction of knowing that you gave your best is reward enough. But, with young people, you like to see them come up with a win.”
Tulsa was led by Ben Uzoh, with 15 points, and Jamel McLean, who collected seven rebounds. SMU’s Dez Willingham and Derrick Roberts had nine and eight points, respectively.
The Mustangs (14-15, 3-12) shot 26 percent in the first half and trailed by 14 before cutting the lead to 29-19 at the break. “The bad thing was we had 19 points at the half,” Doherty said. “The good thing was we were only down 10.”
Trailing in the second half, 39-23, Ofoegbu led a Pony rally with seven points and a steal. Donatas Rackauskas’ jumper pulled SMU to within six with nine minutes remaining. But, before Mustang fans realized they were back in it, Charles Ramsdell and Uzoh pumped in back-to-back threes and Tulsa’s lead was right back to 12.
SMU clawed back once more.
A running jumper from the right side by Paulius Ritter made it 60-54 with 1:11 remaining. Tulsa again answered, this time with 7-8 free throws and a ten-point lead. Ballgame.
Ofoegbu’s three at the buzzer produced the final margin.
SMU shot 35 percent for the game to Tulsa’s 49 percent.
Doherty was tagged for a technical foul in the first half with SMU trailing, 9-7. It was his second of the season.
“I was mad,” Doherty said. “It was obvious I didn’t agree with the calls. I think I have to address that and, in the process, try to wake our team up.”
But, for whatever reason, it was Tulsa that smelled the coffee, going on a 14-2 run for a 23-9 lead at the 7:02 mark.
The Golden Hurricane outrebounded the Mustangs, 39-24.
“Part of the reason we got outrebounded is we didn’t make shots,” Doherty said. “They had more opportunities. They had 27 defensive rebounds, because we missed almost 30 shots.”
With starter Bamba Fall still out (finger) and Brian Epps off the team, SMU had only seven scholarship players available for the game. Derrick Roberts and Devon Pearson played, but weren’t 100 percent after previous injury.
“It’s just the way it is,” Doherty said. “We gotta deal with it.”
“Coach said everybody’s gotta pick it up,” said Ofoegbu.
Ofoegbu, coming off a 30-point performance at Rice, said his personal stats aren’t important. “It doesn’t matter how good you do in a game,” he said. “The thing that matters is the wins and losses.”
Can SMU possibly get it together Saturday and shock No. 7 Memphis or advance in the C-USA tournament next week?
“That’s certainly our goal,” Doherty said.
Saturday will be the home finale for SMU seniors Ofoegbu, Pearson, and Rackauskas.
“We’re gonna try to prove something,” Ofoegbu said. “Our pride is on the line.”
“Any team is capable of pulling off an upset.”
Next Game: Saturday, March 3 vs. Memphis, 8:30 p.m., CSTV.
After That: Wednesday, March 7 – Saturday, March 10, C-USA Tournament @ Memphis; SMU is the No. 11-seed.
Ronnie sez: “It’s been a tough season – a lot of injuries. They’re still playing hard. Hopefully they can come back next year and have a better year.”
(Ronnie Perry has followed SMU hoops since 1957.)
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