In the immortal words of Mark Jackson, “Mama, there goes that man!”
Could it have been an easier night for Jordan Tolbert?
With nine dunks credited to his name, 18 of his 23 points (season high) came in the most effortless, rim-rattling way possible as SMU beat Michigan 82-58.
Soaring high above the rim and finishing with authority, Tolbert made Michigan look soft and uninterested. Sometimes he simply beat the Wolverines and other times they were nowhere to be found.
Speaking of missing Wolverines—Caris LeVert was absolutely shut down. The senior guard is averaging 17.7 points per game with five boards and 3.9 assists.
SMU held him to five points on five percent shooting from the field. His first points came in the second half when Keith Frazier got a tech for talking smack to LeVert before an inbound play.
And even though that particular play was a little disappointing, Frazier had yet another solid outing—finishing with 15 points and six rebounds.
Once again, Ben Moore fell just short of a double-double. He finished with eight points and a season high 10 boards.
Ben Moore has been consistent all season long—not overly impressive, but steady. That’s not a bad thing.
During the first minute of the game Markus Kennedy went down with what is being called an ankle sprain. Depending on how severe the sprain is, SMU will need Moore’s steadiness.
Tolbert proved in explosive fashion, that he can carry the load in Kennedy’s absence. That also means he will have to play extended minutes and so will other players.
Tuesday night, Tolbert played 30 minutes—six minutes more than his season average. Moore played 33 minutes—five minutes more than his average.
Kennedy normally eats up about 24 minutes and some change. So we’ve covered about half of his minutes.
Sterling Brown played six extra minutes and the rest was kind of divvied up between Frazier, Nic Moore and Shake Milton.
Obviously, all of those guys aren’t playing the four or five, but Kennedy’s absence means one less guy in the rotation. Ben Moore, Tolbert, and Brown seem to be impacted the most.
It isn’t too different than the situation last year, when Tolbert was ineligible—except that there’s no Yanick Moreira.
Tolbert looked exhausted at the end of the game and his legs will probably be dead for a couple days. Luckily SMU has seven more days before their next game.
From the way SMU easily dispatched the Wolverines, it doesn’t seem as if it will be too big a deal. Still If Kennedy was to be out a couple weeks the extra minutes could become a strain.
Now, on a more positive note, if Tuesday night was Tolbert’s awakening—imagine this team with Kennedy and possibly Semi Ojeleye down the stretch.
Man I can’t wait until March…*sigh*
But let’s not dwell on that. Let's focus on how badly SMU beat Michigan with some stats!
The Mustangs shot 57.4 percent while holding the Wolverines to just 35 percent. SMU also had 42 points in the paint to Michigan’s 16.
The Wolverines had just two second-chance points while SMU had nine.
SMU finished with a 45-20 edge in rebounding over Michigan and improved to 65-15 when out rebounding an opponent under Larry Brown or Tim Jankovich.
Now my biggest thing with this team since 2013 has been ball security. For a team that passes so well, they can be carless with the ball at times. Sometimes, I think that because they have a high volume of passes per possession they commit more turnovers.
Tuesday night they turned the ball over 17 times—I believe that is a season-high. Their season average of 11.
Still, that final number is misleading, because with the game pretty much in hand SMU eased up a bit in the final minutes and turned the ball over a couple times.
I can also think of a couple Tolbert turnovers at the end of the first half. That didn’t really matter too much. So as far as turnovers when it mattered I think it’d be safe to put that number around 12 or 13.
That is still too high, in my opinion, especially when facing a quality opponent like Michigan.
And before I let y'all go let’s talk about perimeter defense again. While Michigan only shot 27.8 percent from 3-point range, they hit eight of their 10 3’s in the second half. For those not mathematically inclined that’s 24 points.
Michigan scored 36 points in the second. So that’s only 12 points not coming from 3’s. Some of those 3’s can’t be helped, but others could be defended better.
So just for fun, let’s say SMU closed out and forced Michigan to make another pass that resulted in a 2 point FG on six of those 3’s. Now you’re talking about a 30-point win over the Wolverines and maybe three minutes of Wilfong magic.
Aren’t hypotheticals fun?
Still even when Michigan was hitting 3’s in the second half, it seemed almost everyone—even lobster guy—was lobbing it to Tolbert and he’d throw it down with no regard for human life.
Man, that was fun to watch.