Bamba's Big Night
SMU Stops Southern Miss, 67-65, in Bamba Fallís Last Home Game
DALLAS – Appropriately, Senior Night at SMU on Wednesday began and ended with Bamba Fall, the Mustangs’ seven-foot-one lone senior.
In pre-game ceremonies, with members of his family from Senegal, West Africa, at his side, Bamba was honored with a large, framed memento of his playing career at SMU. Later, with 32 seconds left in a tie game, Bamba toed the free throw line and coolly sank two free throws, his final two shots in Moody Coliseum, to beat Southern Miss, 67-65.
On the night, Bamba was a perfect 6-6 from the line.
“I think that shows his progress as a player,” said SMU coach Matt Doherty. “Four years ago I don’t think Bamba would go 6-6 from the foul line. But he’s very calm. He made some big plays.” Doherty also noted Bamba’s four offensive rebounds and aggressiveness in the post.
Should SMU win Saturday at Houston - and Rice and Southern Miss lose – the Mustangs climb from the league cellar into 10 th place, just in time for conference tournament pairings.
After Bamba’s clutch act at the line, Southern Miss missed two 3s in the game’s final ten seconds. The first try, by Jeremy Wise, was nabbed by SMU freshman Frank Otis, in perhaps his biggest rebound of the year. After R.L. Horton’s errant heave on the Golden Eagles’ next possession, SMU had its first Senior Night win in six years.
Doherty said he told his team after the game, “I think we grew up a little bit tonight. I think we took a step in the right direction.”
Mohammad Faye led SMU with 18 points, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range, while Bamba had a season-high tying 16 points and a game-high 8 boards. Derek Williams tallied 14 points for the Mustangs.
Southern Miss’ Wise topped all scorers with 26 points and Courtney Beasley added 16. Andre Stephens had 5 rebounds for the Golden Eagles.
The Mustangs (9-19, 3-12) never trailed in this one - the first time that’s happened in league play this season. But that’s not to say there weren’t the usual seismic gastric episodes for Pony fans.
After leading by 14 at the half and by 12 at the dreaded 10-minute mark of the second half, SMU, on cue, wilted as Southern Miss, realizing it was the scouted “go” time, exploded for a 12-2 run. With 5:37 left, the Mustangs led by two, 57-55.
Anybody who liked SMU’s chances at that point probably bought GM stock earlier in the day.
“What went through my mind was, ‘Here we go again,’” said Doherty, adding he also said “a couple of quick prayers.”
Two buckets by Bamba pushed the lead back to six before Southern Miss (14-15, 4-11) surged again. A lucky lay-up, high off the glass, by Wise, “and one”, drew the Golden Eagles to within a point before Craig Craft’s 3 tied it for the first time, 65-65, with a minute left.
After a Williams miss, Bamba rebounded and was fouled by Cory Smith, setting up his late-game heroics.
SMU had a 16-3 advantage in second-chance points and 11 offensive rebounds to Southern Miss’ 8. The Mustangs’ assist-to-turnover ratio: 13-12.
“This is big move for them to be able to finish it out,” said Southern Miss coach Larry Eustachy. “I thought it was a great game for those who saw it. … [SMU] could have easily found a way to lose it.”
“They made the plays to win it tonight. They got the big rebounds, they made the big free throws. They made the big plays, so give them credit.”
“I think SMU’s problem is just time,” Eustachy said of the Mustangs’ recent late fades. “They’ve got a great coach, in my opinion. He’s as good as there is. They’ve got great young talent. But that’s a tendency of young teams. It’s Senior Night [for SMU] and I only saw one senior.”
Bamba’s cousin, Cheikh Fall, at the game with Bamba’s mother, Astou, and brother, Youssoupha, said he wasn’t surprised to see Bamba hit the game-winners. “I was expecting it was going to be his night, anyway,” he grinned.
Cheikh said Astou was excited but also nervous, having seen the come-from-ahead loss to Tulsa on Saturday. “She was telling me, ‘They are too careless with the basketball. And they are having difficulties closing the game.’”
“She knows basketball,” Cheikh said.
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