Winning Season Guaranteed

The Mustangs didn't hope to win on Wednesday night against Houston, they expected it.

Moments after the Mustangs' loss on Feb. 12 at UTEP, coach Matt Doherty told his players and the media that "there are no more moral victories for SMU."

The Mustangs had just won five straight, but there was no discussion of that streak. It was all disappointment over the loss.

"We came here to win this basketball game," Doherty said. "I'm mad we didn't win this game."

Just competing is no longer just accepted at SMU.

The Mustangs played a complete game to earn a nice win at Houston on Feb. 16, and they remain in the thick of the Conference USA race. This was a game that SMU didn't hope to win but expected to win.

On the offensive end, the Mustangs showed poise and patience, often working the offense until a high-percentage shot presented itself. They took care of the basketball, especially in the second half.

The Mustangs also are playing solid defense. They held the Cougars to 19 points in the second half and had 13 steals. They are playing with a lot of energy on defense, and it's paying off.

While the Mustangs didn't execute late in the Feb. 12 game against UTEP (they made just eight of 20 shots in the second half), SMU took care of business early in the second half against Houston -- at both ends of the floor.

The Mustangs play host a very good Tulsa team on Feb. 19 in another key game. The Golden Hurricane (14-11, 7-4 Conference USA) is big and strong and coming off an easy 86-67 thumping of East Carolina.

SMU (16-9, 7-4) has two more wins than it posted all of last season. Then again, this is a different team with a different attitude and approach.

BEYOND THE BOX SCORE: The Mustangs held UTEP to 67 points on the Miners' floor on Feb. 12. It wasn't a bad job, but the Mustangs can play better defense. Still, they played well enough on the defensive end to win. And that's what this team needs to do every time out: play strong defense and give the offense a chance to win the game. SMU was leading C-USA in scoring defense, allowing 61.8 points per game through Feb. 15.

The defense was again a difference-maker on Feb. 16, as the Mustangs held the Cougars to 51 points. SMU tied a school record in conference play with 13 steals and sent Houston to the free-throw line just once the entire game. The Cougars, who went more than eight minutes in the second half without a point on Feb. 16, had scored 70 against SMU on Jan. 15 in en route to a two-point win.

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