The Mustangs had great offensive production all around on Tuesday night. Four of their starters had over twelve points and as a team they shot 57% from the field. The reason why the Mustangs were able to shoot so efficiently is because they were patient and passed the ball around until they found open shots. The Broncs didn't make it easy on the Mustangs, but they never strayed away from the game plan. Nick Russell and Ryan Manuel did a great job of running the offense, and the Mustangs were very aggressive in the paint, which allowed them to get shots close to the basket. Whenever the Mustangs had open shots, they didn't hesitate to take them and the biggest notable difference between this year and last is the confidence that they have to do so.
SMU shot an exceptional 79.4 percent from behind the arc against Rider going 8-for-11 from three. Nick Russell went 4-for-4 from the three point line hitting some big shots in the first half especially. Brian Bernardi, Ryan Manuel and Cannen Cunningham also cashed in from the three-point bank hitting for 100 percent of the threes that they shot. SMU's success from three point land really opened up its offense and allowed it to get to the basket because Rider was forced not to sit back and let them shoot.
SMU has become a fierce group on the boards this year especially offensively. Cunningham, Jones, and Manuel are extremely aggressive in crashing the boards and are relentless in their pursuit of second chance points. Manuel led the team with 11 rebounds this game and Jones came in second on the team with six. Their ability to go up and get boards enabled them to get put backs, which equaled either points or a trip to the free throw line where they were nearly perfect going 11-for-12 each.
SMU had some trouble handling the ball and making passes towards the end of the game due to the Rider full court press. SMU threw the ball away or traveled on a number of possessions and at some times were frustrated by sloppy play. The Broncs did a good job of pressuring the ball and getting into the passing lanes forcing SMU to make some ill-advised decisions. The Broncs capitalized on some of the SMU turnovers that led to fast break layups or trips to the free throw line but missed some crucial free throws. SMU can't have 16 turnovers and expect to win against some of the better teams in C-USA.
The Mustangs had some trouble guarding the paint against the Broncs, who slashed to the basket often in the second half. SMU gave up a number of layups and even a few dunks at the basket. Jordan Dickerson was supposed to have a big impact defensively but has played a total of 25 minutes in the four games he has appeared in because of his limited offensive ability. Cannen Cunningham is not a dominant presence down low and will get bodied by bigger competition like he did at some points during Tuesday's game. Because SMU has ideal athleticism they can compete with guys down low but until they get someone who can lock down the center of the paint it will continue to be one of SMU's biggest weaknesses.
The Mustangs could have had a dominant performance if it weren't for Rider's ability to pull down offensive rebounds. The Riders gave the Mustangs fits down low and sometimes had three opportunities after their first shot. Fortunately for the Mustangs, many of those second and third chance shots didn't drop for the Broncs. One of the interesting things is, the Mustangs competed for every rebound and got their hands on many of them, however, most of the time they would get out-manned/out-sized, or tip the ball up, or just straight up drop the ball on their way down. Instead of jumping up for rebounds every time, SMU should first box out and then go up for the ball.
3 Up, 3 Down
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