How it Happened
SMU took a solid punch from Hampton tonight especially early as SMU didn't take its first lead against Hampton until there was 8:11 left in the first half. The Mustangs led by just two at the end of the first half. Sterling Brown had 14 points and five rebounds at the half while Jordan Tolbert had 10 points and 10 rebounds. SMU left Hampton open for much of the night from three-point range, but answered with an impressive game inside and after scoring 43 in the first half, really got it going with a 62-point second half while Hampton cooled off a bit to win 105-72.
Last night, Nicholls State pointed out how much more in shape SMU was than them and I think that stayed true tonight. Eventually, Tolbert's physical play and Nic Moore's timely outside shooting in the second half were too much to handle. Just when Hampton thought they had an answer for SMU's game, another player stepped up with Jarrey Foster and Shake Milton adding a combined 28 points. That type of scoring depth is what makes SMU dangerous even when their top players aren't shooting the ball incredibly well.
What it Means
SMU escapes heading into their Las Vegas trip undefeated albeit nicked up. Keith Frazier, Markus Kennedy and Sedrick Barefield were all out and Tolbert tweaked his back, but it didn't look serious. That being said, Ben Moore and Tolbert have elevated their games without Kennedy much like Kennedy did when Yanick Moreira went down his sophomore year. The big question is who starts next week in Las Vegas? With three capable big men, they'll all get their minutes, but add in Larry Brown coming back, that's an interesting question to see how it's answered.
Player of the Game
G Sterling Brown: Sterling again jump-started SMU's offense tonight by leading the way early while SMU was ice cold. Brown continued to make plays in the second half as he finished with 23 points on 10 of 11 shooting. Brown also added six rebounds on the night and played well down low while Tolbert was out with his back a little tweaked. Brown kept things rolling for SMU in the second half with added support from Nic and Ben Moore plus Tolbert, but it was his start that kept SMU in it.
SMU has outscored its opponents in the paint the last two games 102-44. Tolbert has a huge part in that being able to grab a combined 42 rebounds the past two games. It was also Tolbert's fourth double-double of the season.
SMU won't be at home again until January 2 against USF as it heads to Las Vegas to face Kent State on Dec. 22 at 7 pm CT.