I don’t know how we look back at that game and not talk about mental toughness or how Moody brought SMU back into the game.
Now, when I say that it, isn’t to say his eight points won the game for SMU, but it is hard to argue that the timing of his two threes were not perfect.
Temple had a pretty good defensive strategy: keep the ball out of Nic Moore’s hands, and force other players to make jump shots. Out of everyone on the Mustangs roster, it would make sense to force Manuel to shoot jumpers- because he hardly ever does.
In the post-game presser, Manuel said Larry Brown gets mad when he doesn’t shoot. And Brown said that he wouldn’t have been able to predict that Manuel would hit two clutch threes in the last four minutes of the game.
So, once again Manuel surprised us all and was the hero in crunch time. I don’t know when we are going to stop being surprised at how good of a player he actually is.
Now about this toughness thing- last time SMU played Temple, it battled back from a deficit to win. Tonight we saw the Mustangs pull off a similar comeback. Last time the resurgence was fueled by Markus Kennedy. This time it was Ryan Manuel and Moody.
I know I ragged on Moody for leaving early- and it still bothers me that fans do. However, I can’t deny how amazing the fans are while they are still there. As long as they are in their seats they give SMU an incredible advantage and I truly believe opponents dread playing here.
I also can’t talk enough about the strategic awesomeness of Brown. At halftime he made the decision to put Manuel on Will Cummings and it allowed Nic Moore to focus more on orchestrating the offense and less on defending the dynamic guard.
Although I am a little surprised that wasn’t the plan to begin with- I mean, I thought that was why Manuel began starting in the first place. Either way, it was nice to see a halftime adjustment work perfectly and it was doubly nice to see SMU pull off a come from behind win.
And you know, with the way he is playing…Manuel is certainly making a case to be team MVP this season. I can’t think of a player that has stepped up more or had as much of an impact on the team with a larger role.
He has my vote.