No. 19 SMU's Dominant 82-58 Win Over Michigan Was Incredibly Fun And Much-Needed.
Last night, the No. 19-ranked SMU Mustangs faced their biggest non-conference opponent so far this season as the Michigan Wolverines came to town and promptly got handed an ass-whopping to the tune of an 82-58 Mustangs win.
This basketball team has gotten off to a remarkable start — SMU is still undefeated with a 7-0 record — despite the unfortunate, banned-from-postseason circumstance it finds itself in.
This game, as has really been the case for most every Mustangs match-up so far this season, felt like a celebration. Moody Coliseum was sold out again, just as it was all last season, the fans were emphatic, ESPN was in the building broadcasting the game nationally and all sorts of special guests were in attendance, among them President George W. Bush, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, Dallas Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons and former Dallas Stars goalie Marty Turco.
As much as the pageantry felt like last season — when the Mustangs were hyped to make a deep run in the March Madness basketball tournament — this celebrity-filled setting really felt like the new norm around SMU.
As senior point guard Nic Moore said after the game, he wished the fans would come out and support the team like this for every home game this season no matter the name of the team they were playing. It's a valid point: Even though this team isn't eligible for post-season play and this is indeed something of a lost season, the Mustangs still have an opportunity to be a topic of conversation. Associate head coach Tim Jankovich, who will sit in Larry Brown's seat for two more games as the head coach fulfills his suspension, told ESPN earlier in the day that he just wants his team to stay relevant right now.
With the way this team played last night and has been playing all season, relevancy doesn't appear like it'll be much of a concern. Senior forward Jordan Tolbert continued his utterly rim-rattling, highlight-reel season with nine rebounds and 23 points, most of which came from huge dunks. On a night when one of the leaders of the team, senior forward Markus Kennedy, went down in the first possession of the game with what appears to be a sprained ankle (he didn't return), Tolbert and junior forward Ben Moore stepped up in a big way. Tolbert and Moore alone nearly matched all of Michigan's roster in rebounding with 19 boards to the Wolverines' 20. Moore's three blocks were also more than Michigan's two. Even in Kennedy's absence, the Mustangs played its best and most complete night of basketball of the season.
Staying out of foul trouble was the big key. With new NCAA rules that keep a close eye on contact, foul trouble has been a big issue for the Mustangs all season long, limiting the team's defensive opportunities as well as its dangerous small roster's minutes. Against Michigan, the team committed only 10 fouls. More impactful than that: Tolbert and Moore only had one foul combined, which allowed Jankovich to get the real minutes and defensive efforts he desperately needed from them.
The Mustangs are playing smart, disciplined basketball, so much so that it nearly left Michigan head coach John Beilein speechless. During his post-game press conference, he mentioned numerous times that his team just could not get anything going against SMU and had no answers to keep them from scoring. He noted that, with point guard Nic Moore leading this team, SMU is as good as anyone in the country right now — including Duke or any other top-ranked team.
“This shows you,” Beilein said after the game. “If you think you’re good, you're not. That team [SMU] is good.”
As he's done plenty this season, junior guard Keith Frazier shut down top Michigan scorer Caris LeVert, who put up just five points in the contest, a full 15 below his season average.
Beyond Kennedy's injury, most everything went well for the Mustangs last night, which is obviously how Jankovich wants things to be. Toward the end of his own press conference, he opened up about how motivated he is to make sure this SMU basketball team is given all the respect and attention it deserves despite not having its head coach or an opportunity for post-season play. The whole statement is really worth a listen (and is posted below), but here's his closer: “It is highly, highly motivating me and has from day one to have a night like this and get them to feel that. I want them to forget; I want them to have so much fun and do so well that they forget that something has been done to them, that they were innocent victims and it's very sad.”
From the smiles the whole team wore after the game — and the congratulations they received from Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons — last night was certainly a fun one. For a moment, the team indeed forgot its troubles and celebrated a big victory.
SMU plays its next game on Wednesday, December 16, at Moody Coliseum against Nicholls State.
SMU Mustangs forward Markus Kennedy, forward Ben Moore and guard Keith Frazier during ceremonies before the game against the Michigan Wolverines.
SMU Mustangs guard Nic Moore (11), forward Ben Moore (00) and guard Keith Frazier (4) look on as forward Markus Kennedy is attended to by trainers.
SMU Mustangs forward Markus Kennedy (5) is helped off the court after the first possession of the game. Kennedy's injury appears to be a sprained ankle.
SMU Mustangs forward Jordan Tolbert (23) backs down Michigan Wolverines forward Ricky Doyle (32) in the paint during the first half. Tolbert finished the game with 23 points and nine rebounds.
SMU Mustangs guard Sterling Brown (3) and guard Keith Frazier (4) bring the ball up the court.
SMU Mustangs guard Keith Frazier (4) locks in on defending Michigan Wolverines guard Caris LeVert (23), the team's leading scorer. LeVert scored just five points in the game, 15 below his season average.
Michigan Wolverines guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (12) drives the lane against SMU Mustangs guard Keith Frazier (4). Michigan Wolverines head coach John Beilein noted after the game that he could not get any momentum going offensively against the Mustangs.
SMU Mustangs guard Nic Moore (11) brings the ball up the court. SMU Mustangs guard Keith Frazier (4) celebrates with the “Money” sign after hitting a three-pointer in the first half against Michigan.
Michigan Wolverines guard Caris LeVert (23) drives to the basket. LeVert was 1-13 from the floor against the Mustangs.
Dallas Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons attends his first SMU Mustangs basketball game. Other special guests in attendance included the 43 U.S. President George W. Bush, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and former Dallas Stars goalie Marty Turco.
SMU Mustangs forward Ben Moore (00) snags one of his 10 rebounds on the night. Moore led the team in rebounding against the Wolverines.
Michigan Wolverines head coach John Beilein watches as his team falls behind to the SMU Mustangs late in the second half.
SMU Mustangs guard Sterling Brown (3) holds an Michigan Wolverines player at bay as the final seconds of the game clock run out for the team's 82-58 victory.
SMU Mustangs guard Keith Frazier (4) celebrates with SMU Mustangs guard Shake Milton (1) after the victory.
SMU Mustangs associate head coach Tim Jankovich is all smiles after his team's dominating 82-58 victory over the Michigan Wolverines at Moody Coliseum.
SMU Mustangs forward Jordan Tolbert (23) sings the alma mater with SMU Mustangs guard Shake Milton (1) after the game.