How it Happened
After a slow start, SMU overcame a lead to narrowly beat UCSB. The Mustangs did not play a pretty game, but played good defense and made free throws down the stretch to win 49-43. The two teams played an ugly first half. SMU was not able to get much going against Cal State Bakersfield's defense, and the Roadrunners hung around by knocking down jumpshots. Whenever SMU seemed like it was primed to make a run, CSUB would make a shot to drain the energy back out of Moody. CSUB was not very polished offensively, stepping on the line to turn a couple of three-point attempts into two-pointers and hoisting up wild layups, but they made enough shots to hang around with SMU. SMU shot just 34.6% in the half and much of that damage was done by Ben Emelogu and Ben Moore. The Ben's combined to make just three of their 13 shot attempts in the first half. SMU went into halftime with a 23-22 lead.
In the second half, SMU took an early five point lead and looked to pull away, but Ben Moore tipped in a CSUB three point airball, which gave three points to the Roadrunners. The game got scary for SMU towards the middle of the half. Damiyne Durham hit a pair of jumpshots to give CSUB a 37-31 lead. SMU looked terrible; their possessions looked terrible, and every loose ball or rebound that they got to seemed to slip out of their hands. Sterling Brown canned a three-pointer and Harry Froling scored a layup in the paint to cut the deficit to one. This energized Moody Coliseum; the Mustangs played good defense and hit timely free throws to take the lead from CSUB. The Roadrunners went on a scoring drought that lasted over 5:30.
What it Means
While they were able to pull out a win, this game is not a good look for SMU. After losing to an inferior Boise State team, they nearly let a much inferior CSUB team beat them on their own court. The ball did not move; they were not playing smooth offense, and they relied on free throws to get the lead at the end. Ben Emelogu was terrible in this game, and it is time to question whether he belongs in SMU's rotation. To compete with the top of the AAC, SMU needs to start playing much better.
Player of the Game
No player stood out today, but Ben Moore played good defense, got rebounds and got to the line at the end of the game. Moore recorded five points, 12 rebounds and three blocks in the victory. The big man finished just 1-6 from the field, but his defense and hustle were a big part of SMU's win.
Tom Wilson did not play in this game.
SMU plays Delaware State at 2 PM on Sunday in Moody Coliseum.