How It Happened:SMU overcame its worst first half of the season to comeback and beat the UC Irvine Anteaters by the score of 68-54 in the opening round of the NIT. In the first half SMU struggled to get their offense going as they adjusted to playing against giant Mamdou Ndiaye. The Mustangs shot under 30% in the first half and allowed UCI to shoot 52% but somehow went into the half only down one. After the break, SMU came out and attacked the paint and forced a lot of UCI turnovers. Cannen Cunnigham and Markus Kennedy did not light up the stat sheet but were instrumental in stopping Ndiaye on defense. It was not the prettiest SMU win, but that is what the playoffs are about: playing tough defense and winning ugly games.
What It Means:SMU continues to "finish the right way" and will play at least one more game at Moody, which was rocking tonight despite the disappointment surrounding Selection Sunday.
Side Note:This being the NIT we should not be that surprised, but the officiating was awful in this game. The referees awarded Nic Moore free throws after UC Irvine's sixth team foul and only realized the mistake four possessions later and had to take the points off the board. Then they reviewed an offensive foul by video and reversed the call, which I am pretty sure they are not allowed to do. I guess we'll just have to get used to this as the NIT continues.
Up Next:SMU will face the winner of the LSU-San Francisco game sometime this weekend, time and date still to be determined.