SMU built its lead with rebounding
SMU shot 33 percent from the floor in the first half, including 31 percent from inside 3-point range. Players not named Ben Moore were 3-for-21 from two in the first half. That's not going to win a lot of games, but it's survivable when SMU rebounded like it did. SMU's team rebounding has been its most consistent trait all year. Of the Mustangs' 34 first-half points, 19 came on second chances after offensive rebounds. They had 13 first-half offensive rebounds and 29 total rebounds in the first half alone. East Carolina, meanwhile, had 12 total rebounds and zero second-chance points in the first half. The Pirates let themselves get boxed out too often and allowed SMU to have an easy path to the glass when their defenders helped off toward the rim to contest shots. SMU finished with 52 rebounds, 20 of them offensive. SMU had four players with at least eight rebounds. East Carolina had 24 total rebounds and only eight second-chance points.
Ben Moore had little trouble with Andre Washington
Washington, East Carolina's 7-foot-1 shot-blocking center, posed a height problem for SMU. Ben Moore saw him a lot on offense, while Moore and Sterling Brown were critical in defending him. Moore stayed away from going right at him early, hitting two mid-range jumpers. When Washington came out to contest, he drove right by him for a layup. Moore and SMU's guards were too quick off the dribble for Washington, often getting right by him around the rim. He did reject a Shake Milton drive into traffic early in the game. Washington had five blocks, but his hunting them left an SMU player open for an offensive rebound or a trail cut and dunk. Ben Moore had two easy dunks when Washington vacated to help on dribble drives and shots around the rim. Moore finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds on 8-for-10 shooting. Washington wasn't aggressive in boxing out in the first half either and didn't have an impact rebounding, finishing with just four. He wasn't much of a factor offensively either, with six points. He had one pick and roll basket when Brown was late to rotate over, but Brown got a steal on a pass intended for Washington when ECU ran pick and roll with him again shortly after.
Defense stays strong
SMU entered Saturday's game having held each of its last seven opponents to 60 or fewer points. Unsurprisingly, it won all seven. The Mustangs held ECU to .76 points per possession and 35.3 percent shooting, including 15 percent (3-for-20) from 3-point range. ECU's 44 points is the second-lowest total against SMU this season. SMU's 3-point defense was a problem to start the season, but was solid Saturday. ECU had a few open shooters when it moved the ball around and collapsed the defense with dribble drives, but they couldn't make the shots. Caleb White, the Pirates' best 3-point shooter, picked up two fouls in the first half and did not make any of his five attempts from deep. Not much came easy for ECU, which had White, B.J. Tyson and Jeremy Sheppard combine to shoot 20 percent. SMU had a little trouble with Kentrell Barkley, who bet defenders off the dribble a few times.