How it Happened
With the postseason so close, Tim Jankovich wanted SMU to avoid looking ahead and "play the hole we are on." In SMU's case, the hole was a Thursday home game vs. Tulsa.
Mission accomplished. And with authority.
SMU (26-4, 16-1 AAC) clinched at least a share of the AAC title with a 93-70 win vs. Tulsa (14-15, 8-9) Thursday night, its 12th straight win. The Mustangs shot 10-for-19 from 3-point range and held Tulsa to 23 percent shooting in the first half, including 14 percent from 3. Tulsa held a 10-7 lead with 16:23 to go, but SMU ripped off a 17-4 run over the next 4:51. The Mustangs never trailed by fewer than 10 in the final 29 minutes of the game. The lead was Tulsa's top scorer, Junior Etou, picked up his second foul with 15:58 left in the first half, and fourth-leading scorer Pat Birt had two fouls in the first six minutes. When each went to the bench, SMU went on its run and Tulsa regressed on each end of the floor. SMU sliced through Tulsa's spree-out defense for dunks and shot over it for 3s. By the time Etou and Birt came back in late in the first half, the game was all but out of reach. The Mustangs' halftime lead was 18 points. It never fell below 20 for the final 19 minutes.
SMU shot 60 percent from the field and missed 22 field goals. Tulsa made 19 field goals. Semi Ojeleye led all scorers with 26 points. Each of SMUs five starters scored in double figures and shot above 50 percent. Shake Milton posted his first career double-double, with 15 points and 10 assists.
What it Means
SMU has a chance for an outright conference title when it plays Memphis on Saturday. With a win, it will go 17-1 in conference play, the most conference wins in AAC history. SMU has already locked up the top seed in the conference tournament. The two teams met in the opening game of AAC play, with the Mustangs earning a 58-54 win on the road. SMU also set a season-high in points Thursday, topping the 92 it scored on Dec. 14 vs. McNeese State.
Player of the Game: Semi Ojeleye
Everyone who played in the game for SMU had impressive moments. But Ojeleye's performance stands out among them all. He scored 26 points and did not miss a single shot. As interchangeable as SMU's offense is, the ball tends to stick around Ojeleye. And that's a good thing. Thursday was the latest example of him being too athletic, too strong and too skilled for AAC opponents. Ojeleye was also part of the insane sequence that started with Shake Milton falling and dribbling the ball between his legs. Milton passed to Sterling Brown, who found Ojeleye, who dunked on Will Magnay's existence.
Sterling Brown scored his 1,000th career point at SMU with a free throw with 8:04 left in the first half.
SMU will host Memphis in the regular-season finale Saturday at 3 p.m. CT.