3 Up, 3 Down: SMU vs. Clemson

We share three positives and three negatives from SMU's comeback win in the NIT semifinals!

3 Up

1. Second Half Run. The Mustangs looked like a different team in the second half as they came back to beat Clemson, 65-59, in the NIT semifinals. SMU outscored the Tigers 39-21 in the last 20 minutes to win after trailing by as much as 13 at one point in the game. They shot 59 percent from the field and went 11 for 13 at the free throw line in the second half after shooting just 37 percent from the field in the first half. The Mustangs also held Clemson to 24 percent shooting from the field and 18 percent from three the last 20 minutes of the game as they played terrific defense to close it out. Larry Brown's team looked great in the second half and limited the Tigers to just a couple made field goals in the last 10 minutes to earn the victory and advance.

2. Markus Kennedy. When he wasn't in foul trouble, SMU big man Markus Kennedy was very effective against Clemson tonight. He finished the game with 21 points, 9 rebounds, 3 steals, and one assist on 8 for 13 shooting. Kennedy got two quick fouls in the first half that made him sit the last couple minutes of the period and the Mustangs really struggled with him off the floor. Kennedy was also 5 for 6 at the free throw line and did a great job protecting the paint against a physical Tigers team. He didn't let Clemson big men K.J. McDaniels and Landry Nnoko dominate the paint like they have all season in the ACC.

3. Paint Play. SMU very rarely got out-rebounded this season and they didn't allow Clemson to dominate them in the paint tonight. SMU finished with 34 total rebounds, including 12 offensive ones, and out-rebounded the Tigers by 8. SMU also outscored Clemson in the paint 30 to 18 and had four total blocks. Shawn Williams and Cannen Cunningham complimented Kennedy's big game with a combined nine points and seven rebounds on 3 for 5 shooting as the pair of big men helped SMU play well down low against a strong Clemson team.

3 Down

1. Turnovers. Once again, the Mustangs struggled turning the ball over against a terrific Clemson defense tonight. SMU finished with 13 turnovers, including 9 in the first half, and Clemson was able to score 14 points off those mistakes. Nick Russell really struggled handling the ball for SMU and had five turnovers for the game, but he finished with 10 points and shot 2 for 3 from three-point range. The Mustangs did a much better job taking care of the ball in the second half, but there early mistakes almost cost them this game.

2. Free Throw Shooting. The Mustangs have been a bad free throw shooting team all season and it almost lost them the game tonight. For the game, SMU was 15 for 19, but it wasn't the amount of misses that hurt them as much as the timing of them. In the first half, the Mustangs missed the front end of a couple 1-and-1 attempts and didn't really take advantage of Clemson committing 19 fouls in the game. Nic Moore missed two of his attempts, including one huge attempt late in the game, but had a nice game overall. Meanwhile, the Tigers shot 85 percent from the line and almost held on to beat the Mustangs in the second half.

3. The Bench. SMU is a pretty deep team overall, but their bench struggled tonight in Madison Square Garden. For the game, the Mustangs bench had just 8 total points. It helped that Clemson only got 3 points from their bench, but SMU expects more from their reserves. Cannen Cunningham led the way for the bench with 4 points and 3 rebounds, but even he had 2 turnovers and looked shaky at times. Keith Frazier and Yanick Moreira were both held scoreless and Ben Moore only managed to score two points on a couple free throws. Also, Ryan Manuel played sparingly but finished with 2 points and 2 rebounds.

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