Another monster effort from Jalen Jones is not all that surprising but should be properly appreciated and recognized. Without Jones, SMU would not have had any chance for a victory, as he dominated the boards, (11), was tied with Ryan Manuel with most points, (18) and provided countless hustle plays that all SMU fans have become accustomed too. Jones was incredibly efficient offensively, shooting 50 percent from the field and was great in transition- turning steals and forced turnovers into emphatic dunks. With this effort, his season averages of 15 points and 8 rebounds will rise, making him a legit contender for a spot on the Conference-USA first team.
Manuel very well may have played his best game of the season, tying Jalen with a team leading 18 points off of 7 of 9 shooting. What is even more impressive was the fact that Manuel did not commit a turnover all game despite sharing point guard duties with Nick Russell. Manuel was also the only Mustang would consistently got to the free throw line in the second half, after SMU attempted zero in the first half. If Manuel can continue this type of play, he could be very important in this final stretch of games for the Mustangs.
What separated the Mustangs from ECU in the first half was their ability to get second chance points off missed shots. SMU totaled 12 offensive rebounds in all, with -not surprisingly- Jones leading the effort with six. On a day where SMU could not hit a jump shot and didn't make it to the foul line once in the first half, they saved themselves by attacking the offensive boards and getting important hustle points.
Akeem the Dream
On a pleasant Saturday, and with SMU seemingly on its way to an easy win over ECU, Akeem Richmond decided to ruin everything. After a six point first half, Richmond decided to go off for 23 points in the second half, including an absurd seven three pointers. Channeling his inner Reggie Miller circa 1995, Akeem hit a three, stole the inbounds pass, and hit another three, and in the blink of an eye, SMU went from being up five to down one. The low point for SMU came when Larry Brown had no choice but to put Shawn Williams on Richmond, as Manuel and Russell both failed to stop the guard. Richmond was 9-14 shooting on the day, all 3-point attempts.
SMU, who is usually a consistent team from deep, struggled mightily, shooting an abysmal 1-9 from three. With Williams, Cannen Cunningham, Russell, Brian Bernardi and even Manuel, SMU usually is able to shoot a respectable average from three, but for whatever reason, they were not able to do so today. The lone three came from Nick Russell, who hit it at a pivotal point in the game, with under 20 seconds left in the game to put SMU down only one. Russell did frustrate fans, as he hit two long two-point shots, that both looked like threes to the crowd, but he had a foot on the line, causing his long-range jumpers to count as only a two. In game this close, SMU could have really used those extra two points.
The SMU bench as been a stable in the three down part of this column, and in today's game against ECU nothing changed. The entire SMU bench combined for a total of four measly points and only four total shots taken by the five players that subbed into the game. London Giles, SMU's leading returning scorer played just five minutes and had no impact on the game. Giles has been battling a leg injury all season but to this point in the season has produced next to nothing for the Mustangs. Jordan Dickerson once again looked lost on the court and has become somewhat of a liability, which Brown saw early on, and took him out after one minute. The good news is freshman Blaise Mbargorba did participate in pregame warm ups, and looked good, so he may be able to play this season, which would be a great surprise for SMU.
3 Up, 3 Down
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