How it Happened
Neither team opened the game shooting well, and SMU forward Markus Kennedy left the game after favoring his ankle just a few minutes into the game. But SMU pulled away in the final 13 minutes of the first half, going on a 27-9 run until halftime after Michigan led 11-7 with 13:13 left in the half. SMU made nine of its final 12 field goal attempts of the first half as Michigan made two of 14 attempted three-pointers. SMU's defense denied Michigan room to move and held do-everything guard Caris LeVert scoreless in the first half. Even without Kennedy, SMU owned the glass, outrebounding Michigan 45 to 20 and even beating the Wolverines at their own game, shooting 53 percent from three. Michigan twice cut the deficit to 10 in the second half, but SMU responded with alley-oops and dunks that got all the momentum back.
What it Means
After a couple shaky defensive games, SMU responded with its best defensive effort of the year. Tim Jankovich spent a lot of time explaining how to defend Michigan's offense in practice, specifically back screens, dribble handoffs and getting out to deny shooters space. Even without Kennedy, SMU had the luxury of avoiding foul trouble against a much less atheltic Michigan frontcourt and could stay in man defense. Michigan's offense has found more room to operate against zone defenses, and could have gotten in a groove from deep earlier if SMU had been in foul trouble. SMU played smart defense, was rarely caught out of position on some of Michigan's ball screen-heavy sets and denied Michigan a chance to run them properly.
Player of the Game
Jordan Tolbert. With Markus Kennedy out, Tolbert showed up in a big way. He finished with 23 points and nine rebounds, plus 10 dunks. Michigan had no answer for him and often lost him completey, but to put up those kind of numbers and leaping like he did is impressive regardless. Michgan didn't make much of an effort to slow him by fouling, but he stayed out of foul trouble despite being SMU's lone true post presence.
The official word on Kennedy was a sprained ankle. But he put no weight on it as he walked off and did not return to the bench area for the rest of the night.
SMU has eight days until its next game. It hosts Nicholls State at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 16