SMU Finds Its Shot, Tops Texas State, 94-86
DALLAS - What a difference a trey makes.
After dismal 3-point shooting (0-13) in the loss to TCU last Wednesday, the Mustangs found their long-range touch on Monday night – for a half at least – and won a game they had to have.
SMU (3-3) built a 21-point second-half lead then held off Texas State, 94-86, before a mostly late-arriving crowd of 1,787. The Bobcats never led.
The Mustangs came out smoking from the 3-point arc, hitting 11 of 16 (68.8 %) en route to 52 first-half points, their most in an opening stanza in three years.
SMU also made a season-high 28 made free throws on 34 attempts, an uncharacteristically high 82.4%.
“We’ve spent a lot of time in the last few days shooting and it’s paid off,” said SMU coach Matt Doherty. “We also showed some of the guys the highlight tape from last year of them making shots.”
“We’re really happy to be here with a win,” he said. “I’m really proud of our guys coming together in a situation where [injured] Frank Otis wasn’t available, [injured] Myles Luttman wasn’t available, then Papa Dia fouls out, then Robert Nyakundi fouls out.”
“So we had a little makeshift lineup in there at times and guys responded.”
Derek Williams led SMU with a season-high 21 points, including 11-of-12 free throws, both career-highs. Robert Nyakundi had a career-high 19 points for SMU and Mouhammad Faye added 15.
Faye also had a team-high eight rebounds, made 6-of-6 free throws and, for a second straight game, collected three blocks.
“I thought [Faye] was fantastic,” Doherty said. “The numbers don’t tell the job that he did. … I just think he’s a real big part of the emotional leadership of this team. That’s something we didn’t have for most of last year.”
Bobcats Uriel Segura, Tony Bishop and J.B. Conley each had 18 points for Texas State (3-6).
SMU out-rebounded the Bobcats, 37-33, but Texas State held the edge in offensive boards, 17-12.
“ Texas State is team that scares you as a coach,” Doherty said, “because they press, they shoot 3s and they don’t give up.”
Nyakundi and Mike Walker came off the bench to lead SMU’s early three-point barrage, pouring in 17 and 9 points, respectively, in the first half.
Nyakundi sank 4-of-5 3s and Walker was a perfect 3-for-3 as the Mustangs built an 18-point lead ten minutes before the break. ( Walker was 4-for-4 from beyond the arc in seven minutes of play.)
But, as is customary of late, SMU couldn’t hold the lead.
The Bobcats - with 3s of their own and decent rebounding – cut SMU’s lead to 11 by halftime. Then, as ominously as TCU had, Texas State opened the second half by popping a momentum-stealing jumper ten seconds in.
Two minutes and 7-straight Bobcat points later, Texas State trailed, 52-50, and an ugly SMU home loss looked possible.
But the Mustangs pulled away on back-to-back buckets by Justin Haynes before Williams, Faye and Walker built the lead back to 21, 84-63, with 7:42 left.
(Game over, right? Read on, grasshopper).
The Mustangs slowed the game, burning clock each possession, and their rhythm dissipated. Texas State pushed again and with two minutes left trailed by five, 90-85.
SMU guard Paul McCoy, bothered by the press, had three turnovers during the run - two balls thrown out of bounds and a five-count inbounds pass. SMU finally choked off the Bobcats on free throws by Williams, Clinkscales and McCoy.
Williams said SMU loses leads due to poor execution, turnovers and inopportune fouling. And this: “I think a lot of times we try to play too tentative. Like with five minutes left and we’ve got the lead, we don’t want to mess up and take bad shot, instead of just playing our game.”
Afterward, one frustrated fan was heard questioning Doherty’s decision to slow the game when he did. (“Would you go into a stall with eight minutes left?” he asked. “God Almighty, what goes through the man’s head?”)
“That was probably more like four or five [minutes],” Doherty said of the timing. “We wanted to hold the ball and wait and just try to attack the basket. It didn’t always work out the way we had planned. But we didn’t want to take a shot too early on the shot clock either. We probably should have worked on kind of a false-motion offense, where you’re acting like you’re running your offense.”
McCoy’s “funk” continues. In a team-high 38 minutes, McCoy had 5 points on 1-of-7 shooting from the field.
“I’m excited because we played fairly well, without Paul playing well,” Doherty said. “And that’s been several games. He’s not going to be in that funk for long. … He will be fine and it’s just a matter of time.”
“Obviously, Paul’s one of our best players on the team,” Williams said. “He’s still young so [we tell him], ‘Just be confident.’ Paul is excited because we won. … As long as we’re winning, it doesn’t really matter who’s doing the scoring.”
“If he misses a couple of shots,” Williams said, “he does have a tendency to fade away and not just take the same shots he’s normally taken. But we always tell him, ‘Just keep being aggressive.’”
“It’s just a slump. I’m pretty sure he’ll get out of it.”
With Otis and Luttman injured, and Dia and Nyakundi fouling out over the last seven minutes, Justin Haynes and Ryan Harp both saw time at power forward.
Doherty said opening losses to good teams, South Florida and Texas A&M, had caused his team to lose confidence. “We got a little tight,” he said. “We got a little tight against Huston-Tillotson. And we were a little tight against TCU.”
Doherty said his team’s hot-shooting was a relief – to him and the team. “So much of shooting is mental. It’s like playing golf. Our guys, technically, have very sound shots. … Once they got in the flow, you could tell they were extremely confident.”
The Mustangs play Texas State again on January 2 at San Marcos.
Nyakundi has learned this much about the Bobcats: “They’re never going to go away. They keep fighting no matter if they’re down. They keep playing hard. They scrap. We’ve just got to be strong with the ball, take care of the ball.”
SMU now has twelve days off for finals before resuming play Saturday, December 19, at Occidental College in Los Angeles. The Mustangs then travel to Honolulu for the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, December 22-25. SMU’s football team plays Nevada in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl on December 24.
*Doherty said Otis had an MRI on Monday and results will be known Tuesday. Both Luttman and Otis should be available for Occidental, he said.
*SMU’s 94 points against Texas State were the most it has scored in a game since beating UTEP, 99-96, in double-overtime on March 1, 2008.