SMU Hoops Season In Review

Pony Stampede Managing Editor Billy Embody reflects on the SMU basketball season and hands out awards. Come inside for more!

Most Valuable Player: Jalen Jones

For just about 99 percent of the Mustangs' season, Jalen Jones was the most physical, consistent and dominant player on the team. Jones averaged almost a double-double for a good stretch of the season before falling off a little bit at the end of the regular season. Jones shot over 50 percent from the field and almost 40 percent from three-point range. Where he made his impact rebounding was offensively with 107- 44 more than any other player for the Mustang. He also led the team with 140 defensive boards. Jones had high energy and gave 100 percent every time he was on the floor. With the starters playing so many minutes, that was tough for some players to do, but Jones was always there with his effort.

Defensive Player of the Year: Cannen Cunningham

Cannen Cunningham was probably the most well-rounded player on SMU's team this season, averaging 9.3 points per game, 6.2 rebounds per game, 1.8 assists and 1.8 blocks per game. Cunningham was huge on the defensive boards, having 138 all season, but his 59 blocks were 35 more than anyone else on the team. Cunningham did a good job of not turning the ball over and putting the team in bad defensive spots by limiting himself to 76 turnovers on the season. Cunningham also did contribute offensively and even hit a game-tying shot at the buzzer against Houston. More on that later.

Freshman of the Year: Brian Bernardi

Bernardi's minutes were up and down all season, but late in the season is when he came on strong, he had double-digit minutes in the last eight games and in the C-USA tournament, he had twenty minutes, with eight points including two clutch free-throws to put the Mustangs up one point against UAB before the Blazers eventually won the game. Bernardi was a sharp shooter coming out of high school and while he shot almost 42 percent from three-point range, he had limited opportunities but was the best freshmen on the team.

Most Improved Player: Nick Russell

SMU was without a true point guard this entire season, but as the season wore on, Nick Russell took more of the weight on his shoulders at the position. In the first 19 games, Russell had eight games with five or more turnovers, but in the last 13 games, he had just one game with more than four turnovers. That and Nick Russell being tied as the team's leading scorer with Jones by the end of the season showed how important he was to the Mustangs, especially when Jones' play struggled down the stretch.

Heart & Hustle Award: Jalen Jones

Jones was 100 percent the most energetic player on the court for the Mustangs. He pressed, he defended players in their face and was diving for balls whenever he had the chance. SMU fans noticed this season and Jones was rewarded with standing ovations and he won over their hearts. When SMU needed a big play, Jones was there for most of the season and he was the leader of SMU's young team this year that featured only one senior.

Play of the Year: Cunningham Hits Buzzer Beater vs. UH to send game to OT

In a C-USA matchup against Houston in Moody Coliseum, the Mustangs were down three with just a few seconds left. The Mustangs inbounded the ball all the way to center court where Jalen Jones caught the ball. The Houston defense all went to Jones, who turned and found Cunningham in the corner, where he launched an uncontested three-pointer that dropped and sent Moody into a frenzy. Although the Mustangs lost in overtime, Cunningham's shot was a big highlight.

Watch it here: http://vimeo.com/58800218

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