When SMU fell to Tulsa Wednesday night, I said that we’d “see whether or not this team is interested in finishing the right way.”
Saturday night, SMU was undoubtedly interested and, as always, Nic Moore made sure his team did finish the right way.
With the score knotted up at 46-all in the second half, Moore nailed a jumper to give SMU the lead for good.
The Mustangs then scored six straight buckets, either by the hands of the 5-foot-9 senior point guard or because of his surgical passing.
After drilling a pair of free throws, Moore put SMU up 61-52 and allowed the Mustangs to close out the game on their terms.
Moore finished the night with 25 points and 11 assists—honestly, where would we be without him?
With he’s third in SMU history with 475 assists, fifth with 212 made 3’s but without a doubt number one in our sports hearts.
SMU also got major contributions from Ben Moore, who finished with 16 points, four rebounds, three blocks and three steals.
He was the only other Mustang to finish in double-digits, but Markus Kennedy and Jordan Tolbert each added nine points and combined for 15 rebounds.
In many statistical categories, it was an odd night for SMU.
Normally, the Mustangs will have around four players finish in double figures, but Gonzaga proved a much greater defensive test than normal.
The Zags also out rebounded SMU 37-35, marking only the sixth time in 24 contests that an opponent has beaten it in that category.
However SMU did get 34 points in the paint to Gonzaga’s 22, 11 second chance points to their 9, and had 17 points off of turnovers compared to Gonzaga’s nine.
Speaking of turnovers—SMU did a much better job protecting the ball, only turning it over nine times while forcing 12 of their own.
SMU knew what this game meant.
It was one of its last shots to prove its worthiness against a NCAA tournament caliber team.
And while the loss will likely keep Gonzaga out of the top 25 and SMU in it, the Zags are about as tough an opponent as the Mustangs have faced all season.
Over the past six games, SMU has been unable to string consecutive wins together…on the plus side they also haven’t lost back-to-back games either…but still, a little consistency would be nice.
This season is all about making a lasting impression on a national level.
The 18-0 start got everyone’s attention, but the string of recent losses made some doubt the team’s ability.
A win over Gonzaga, should regain some of that national attention. And in a season where there is little to gain but—for lack of a better term—credibility, SMU needs as many people talking about them as possible.
There are six games left in the season and this win could be the confidence boost the team needed—a reaffirmation of their prowess, if you will—to finish the season.
And, for now at least, it appears they are looking to do so the SMU way—the right way.