Tim Jankovich (Photo by Matt Visinsky)

SMU focused on "playing the hole we're on" as regular season winds down with AAC Championship in sight

SMU head coach Tim Jankovich has the team focused on the current objective, Tulsa on Thursday, rather than looking ahead as door opened for Mustangs to grab AAC regular season crown thanks to Cincinnati's loss.

Cincinnati's loss opened door for SMU, but Jank focused on Tulsa

With Cincinnati's loss to UCF on the road on Saturday, SMU is in the driver's seat to win the regular season American Athletic Conference championship. SMU head coach Tim Jankovich said the loss by the Bearcats changes nothing for his 25-4 Mustangs.

"I think the dangerous thing is, and what we're trying to get these guys to understand, it does not change Thursday in any way, shape or form," Jankovich said. "As of Saturday night, we were feeling like Thursday is very important and we've got to keep pace. The truth is nothing has changed at all from that game."

With SMU set to take on Tulsa on Thursday and then Memphis on Saturday for Senior Night, the goal is simple. Win both and SMU is the AAC Champion. Jankovich said that looking ahead or trying to think about external factors can hurt his team.

Jankovich related it to golfing, which he says he doesn't do much of anymore, and says his team needs to just stay the course, to use a pun.

"It's like if you've got a great round going and you're going into the 16th hole and you starting thinking, if I can par, par, bogey, this is going to be a great round," said SMU's first-year head coach. "Then you're in the woods, in the trap and in the water. You've got an 8. I just want to play the hole we're on." 

Milton's second half scoring woes made up for by defense

Despite Shake Milton having two of his 20 points come in the second half, after his huge first half, Jankovich said the sophomore point guard helped a lot on defense. The tough crowd at XL Center was handled well by Milton, who committed one turnover and added eight rebounds in his 36 minutes.

"He played really good defense really the entire game. He was pretty cut in and played an outstanding floor game," Jankovich said. "Real high IQ player. Playing on the road in a real tough environment with a team that had been playing really well at home. Pretty tough situation."

Jankovich quipped that Milton's big effort on the scoring side of things wasn't lost on him either.

"Shake found many ways to help us including chucking about 25 three's."

Team avoids trouble during foul trouble thanks to freshmen

Jankovich also explained his decision to put big man Leo Kontopoulos and guard Dashawn McDowell in the game when the likes of Ben Moore, Semi Ojeleye and Sterling Brown had two fouls in the first half against Connecticut.

"We have not seen that in quite some time with three guys having two fouls. I thought Leo and Dashawn did awfully well holding the fort," Jankovich said. "You were going to substitute based on the score. I wanted to get Jonathan in there, but I didn't want to get that small because they were pretty good sized inside. Showed an awful lot of poise."

SMU would have been running a lineup of Milton, McDowell, Jarrey Foster, Ben Emelogu and Jonathan Wilfong had Jankovich decided to go all guards.

Jankovich says Saturday will see emotions run high

The "pioneers" for SMU Basketball will be sent off at Moody Coliseum on Saturday. Jankovich of course is talking about Sterling Brown and Ben Moore, who along with walk-on Jonathan Wilfong, will be honored before the game against Memphis.

Jankovich cautioned that the team will have to be extra focused.

“There’s some dangers because emotions run so high on Senior Night. I promise that every one of these guys will as focused as possible."

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