This, my friends, is what a win should feel like. Although competitive games are more enjoyable, blow-outs provide their own kind of enjoyment.
When a team jumps out in front of their opponent, like SMU did Wednesday evening, it can relax too much and let the other team back into it.
That didn’t happen and SMU beat USF 83-49. What a way to end 2014 and kick off conference play.
In case you didn’t realize it, regardless of how ugly some of SMU’s past couple games have been, your Mustangs are on an eight-game winning streak and have started conference play unbeaten.
On Saturday, SMU will have a chance to take down Cincinnati, extend the streak to nine, and take control of the conference.
Let’s not kid ourselves; this was an important game to win. After narrowly escaping the clutches of defeat Monday against MSU, a lot of you were thinking this team wasn’t what we thought it was.
If any team was going to spoil New Year’s Eve for the Mustangs, it would have been USF.
Yes, coming into Wednesday’s game the Bulls had the worst record of any team in the AAC and were the only team with a losing record (6-7).
Just don’t forget that SMU was averaging 15 turnovers a game and their last time out they gave the ball away 19 times to a division II program. And let us not forget that coming into the game USF was second in the conference in steals, and second in field goal percentage.
The biggest difference between Monday’s miserable win over MSU and Wednesday’s blowout of USF was ball movement and team defense.
SMU finished the game with 26 field goals and 21 assists, shot 52 percent from the field and held USF to just 36.5 percent.
However, game to game adjustments and conference standings aside, this game is significant for another reason.
Looking back at the game book, something stood out to me. And for the first time, I truly appreciated Keith Frazier.
With 11:46 to play in the first half, SMU held a nine point lead over USF.
The Bull’s Troy Holston hoisted a three-pointer but was off the mark. Cannen Cuningham secured the rebound for SMU and 13 seconds later, Frazier drilled a three to extend the lead to 12.
Forty-six seconds after that, he sunk another three- making it a 15 point game.
From that moment on USF never got closer than within 12.
It was the second straight game where Frazier delivered the game changing play. It is fitting too, that it came from him.
Frazier is the only McDonald’s All-American to play for SMU and, thanks to someone moving to China, has been the most high profile recruit of Brown’s tenure at SMU.
In many ways, the growth of SMU’s basketball program is linked to Frazier. The Mustangs have a lot of pieces and a lot of players that can score, but Frazier’s points are a little more important.
No other Mustang has his own personal cheer for when they knock down a shot.
“Keeeeeeeeeeiiiiitttttth” is reserved for when a specific individual makes a specific play.
There is nothing more powerful or infectious in SMU sports, right now, than a three-pointer from Keith Frazier.
The crowd loves it and the team feeds off of its energy.
Even if he hadn’t made those threes, SMU probably still wins.
All I know is that a little more than four minutes after those two plays, SMU was up by 20. And four minutes after that, the Mustangs led by 32.
We saw last season, as did the rest of the nation, that SMU could be a dangerous team at home when the crowd supported it.
Now we know this team is missing leadership; that much is certain. But it’s also missing something else: that little indefinable something that you sense when you are around a championship team. Whatever it is, this group doesn’t have it.
But they do have a Keith.
And maybe that’s enough to steal a couple games, beat some teams they shouldn’t, and give us something to cheer about when winter gives way to spring.