Semi Ojeleye (Photo by Matt Visinsky)

Three Takeaways: SMU vs. East Carolina

SMU opened up play in the AAC Tournament with a nail-biting 81-77 win over East Carolina in Hartford, which came in large part to Ojeleye's big game. There's plenty to work on for SMU though.


Ojeleye puts on a show vs. ECU

The newly crowned AAC Player of the Year Semi Ojeleye put on a show against East Carolina on Friday. With 15:30 to go in the first half, an Ojeleye dunk sparked an SMU run to close the half and put SMU up 43-21 at the half. Ojeleye had 17 points at the half alone. For much of the second half, Ojeleye was the lone Mustang in double figures before Sterling Brown got into the fun with his 16 points. The two were the lone SMU players in double figures. Ojeleye finished with a career-high 31 points and 12 rebounds. Ojeleye was key to SMU being able to hang onto the win, sinking two free throws with 13 seconds left to put SMU up four. This win can pretty much be tied to the AAC's best player having one of his best games. Without Ojeleye, SMU likely falls to ECU.

Sloppy opening game from SMU

After just two points in the first half, East Carolina's leading scorer Kentrell Barkley scored 22 points in the second half. The Mustangs racked up 17 fouls and 16 turnovers in the game. The real concerns are SMU's three-point defense, allowing ECU to 11-of-19 from beyond the arc and Tim Jankovich's squad performance against the press. SMU struggled in a big way when ECU was forced to press late in the game, committing turnovers and offensive fouls. ECU scored 17 points off of SMU turnovers. SMU was outscored 56-38 in the second half by the Pirates and really, should have lost this game if not for Barkley's mishandled backdoor cut. That's basketball though. There's a lot to correct for Jankovich and his staff going into SMU's game in the semifinals on Saturday.

SMU runs into a bit of foul trouble

In the first half, SMU saw Sterling Brown and Ben Moore both pick up two fouls in the first half, leading to minutes for Dashawn McDowell, Jonathan Wilfong and Leo Kontopoulos. The two seniors sat for 10 minutes and six minutes respectively. While SMU widened its lead during that time thanks in large part to Ojeleye, it's not always going to be that easy to just turn to the AAC Player of the Year to take over. Ben Emelogu and Jarrey Foster both finished with four fouls on the afternoon, some in critical moments during ECU's run to comeback. For the two SMU guards, cleaner games are needed for SMU to not face trouble in the future in the AAC and NCAA Tournament. Fouls were also good to SMU in a way too. SMU went to the charity stripe for 29 attempts, making 21 shots. 72 percent from the line isn't great, but those free throws, especially Ojeleye's two late, were critical for SMU.

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