The Moody Coliseum Crowd Helped SMU Get Past Temple Last Night.

With 13:44 remaining in the second half of last night's game against the Temple Owls, the Southern Methodist University men's basketball team was in a rough spot, down seven points to its conference rival, the score sitting at 39-32.

The No. 21-ranked Mustangs dug that hole for themselves: The team came out of the gate sluggishly, and the Owls were all too happy to take advantage of that lackluster start — most notably sophomore Temple point guard Will Cummings, who recorded seven assists and four steals in that stretch. The Mustangs just didn't have much going for them: They'd scored zero fast break points, were two of nine on free throw attempts and, well, they just looked bad.

SMU coach Larry Brown saw it, too: “I looked at the body language and the guys thought we were losing because we weren't making free throws,” he said of his team's spirits in the locker room during halftime. “We were losing because our energy stunk and we didn't match their energy. They had a kid [Cummings] that was dominating the game.”

But about halfway through the second half — right around that 13-minute mark — the momentum started to swing the other way. Junior SMU forward Markus Kennedy received the ball in the low post from his fellow junior, point guard Nic Moore. A couple pump fakes later, the big man made a move to the basket and laid in a bucket. The crowd — finally — let out a cheer. But, on his way back to the other end of the court, Kennedy decided that the response wasn't enough. And so he threw his hands in the air to get the crowd going.

At that moment Moody Coliseum came alive. And so too did the Mustangs: In the next four minutes of game time, SMU forced three turnovers, scored 11 points and tied the game.

“The atmosphere was unbelievable,” Brown said after the game. “I was a little bit disappointed early that we didn't have a lot of people there. Then, all of a sudden, the crowd picked us up. They were unbelievable. [The crowd] was every bit as loud as [it was last Saturday against] Connecticut.”

The game's early start at 6 p.m. certainly did affect the early turnout: When the game tipped off, fans were only slowly trickling into the building; by halftime, though, the coliseum was packed, and, as Brown noted, the second-half atmosphere indeed influenced the team's performance. From the time Kennedy triggered that crowd reaction to the closing buzzer, Moody Coliseum was a madhouse and Temple was visibly overwhelmed.

“It felt like we were playing in the old Moody for a little bit,” senior guard Ryan Manuel said of the second-half environment. “The place got really loud tonight, and that really helped us get back into the game.”

It seemed to help Manuel, that's for sure. Before last night's game, Manuel had only hit one three pointer all season long. Last night, he hit two three pointers late in the game, creating just enough of a buffer to keep Temple at bay for the rest of the night.

“Manuel’s two threes were critical,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said after the game. “They were crushers for us.”

Brown's in-game adjustment to have Manuel cover Temple point guard Will Cummings too altered the game. After Cummings' dominant first-half show, Manuel held him to zero assists in the second half, although he did still manage to score 10 points late in the game. Still, Cummings' performance was key to last night's win. After the game, Brown noted that his team's perimeter players — Manuel, Moore and sophomore guard Ben Emelogu — are going to have to continue to provide this kind of defense and three-point shooting if teams are going to keep collapsing on big guys like Kennedy, as well as seniors Yanick Moreira and Cannen Cunningham, as they have been of late.

Such critiques are to be expected. With only three regular-season games remaining, the Mustangs are in the process of fine-tuning their game in preparation for the American Athletic Conference tournament while solidifying their resume for the NCAA Tournament. Learning to overcome deficits like the one the team faced last night will go a long way toward that.

SMU junior point guard Nic Moore scans the floor in the first half against Temple. Moore led the Mustangs in scoring with 18 points.

SMU guards Sterling Brown and Ryan Manuel drive to the basket. Manuel hit two crucial three-pointers late in the second half to help seal the victory against Temple.

SMU point guard Nic Moore attempts a three-pointer in the first half. Last night's game was Moore's fourth straight with 10 or more points.

SMU forwards Ben Moore and Yanick Moreira throw up shots against Temple. Moore and Moreira combined for 15 points and four blocks in the game.

SMU guard Ryan Manuel tests the Temple defense. Manuel entered the game one-for-five on three-pointers for the season, but was two-for-two on this night.

SMU guard Nic Moore stares down Temple point guard Will Cummings. Moore had three steals in the game.

SMU forwards Markus Kennedy and Moreira attempt to get the Moody crowd going. The Mustangs acknowledged that the Moody crowd helped elevate the team to its win over Temple.

Temple point guard Will Cummings drives past SMU forward Ben Moore to the basket. Cummings finished the game with 14 points, seven assists and seven steals.

SMU forward Yanick Moreira looks over at the Temple bench during a timeout. Moreira and the Mustangs win last night was the team's 13th conference victory on the season.

SMU guard Sterling Brown presses on Temple guard Quenton Decosey. Brown recorded three steals in the game.

SMU guard Nic Moore defends Temple guard Josh Brown. The Mustangs outscored the Owls by 17 points in the second half.

SMU guard Nic Moore defends Temple guard Josh Brown. The Mustangs outscored the Owls by 17 points in the second half.

Temple guard Quenton Decosey attempts a cross-over on SMU guard Sterling Brown.

SMU point guard Nic Moore disputes a call in the second half. The Mustangs committed 15 fouls to the Owls' 22 on the night.

Temple point guard Will Cummings charges past SMU guard Ryan Manuel. SMU head coach Larry Brown had Manuel cover Cummings in the second half after his hot first-half start.

SMU forward Markus Kennedy attempts a shot against two Temple players. Kennedy finished the game with eight points, six rebounds, two assists and two blocks.

SMU point guard Nic Moore calls signals for the defense.

SMU head coach Larry Brown sends a cheer to the Moody crowd. The Mustangs moved to 22-5 on the season and remain in first place in the American Athletic Conference.

SMU point guard Nic Moore celebrates with fans following the win.

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