Sterling Brown (Photo by Matt Visinsky)

Three Takeaways: SMU vs. USC

SMU lost 66-65 to USC in heartbreaking fashion. The Mustangs were eliminated in the first round of the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years.

Mustangs cannot break USC’s zone

After making 11 of their first 16 shots, SMU cooled off big time. The Mustangs could not buy an open look in the second half. Seemingly every SMU possession lasted nearly the entire shot clock before SMU was forced to toss up a tough shot. The Mustangs’ passing was not moving USC’s zone or opening up any cracks in it. Sterling Brown and Semi Ojeleye were the only sources of offense for SMU in the second half until Shake Milton’s late game 3-pointers. The stagnation on offense killed SMU at the end of the game. On their last possession, they did not get a good look, as Shake Milton was forced to barrel his way through the lane for a tough floater instead. Throughout this season, SMU has had success against zone defense. They did a solid job against it in the first half; throwing well timed and smart passes to get open shots. But in the second half, SMU’s passes were thrown with less purpose. 

Sterling Brown is the full package

Sterling Brown leaves SMU with a diverse skill set; he brings everything to the table. He is a physical and gritty defender, a canny passer, a tough rebounder and a dynamic scorer. His scoring was particularly impressive in the second half. Brown bulldozed his way to the rim for a layup, backed down De’Anthony Melton for a hook shot and swished a three with the shot clock winding down after a pretty size-up dribble. Brown was not able to take advantage of individual USC defenders down the stretch because the Trojans stayed in zone. His scoring chops, which he showed off today, give him a great chance to stick in the NBA. One has to wonder if SMU would have been better off if the ball was in Brown’s hands instead of Milton’s on that last possession. Brown will graduate from SMU without a tournament win.  

SMU has no answer for USC’s pick and roll

USC ran a pick and roll with Jordan McLaughlin as the ball-handler and Chimezie Metu as the roll man. Metu’s strength is rolling on the pick and roll, so SMU had to send a third man help to help. On the play, Bennie Boatright would creep up from the corner to the top of the key, dragging Ojeleye along with him. Ojeleye could not be the help man because he had too far of a distance to cover. Sterling Brown was forced to drop into the paint to tag Metu on the roll, this left Jarrey Foster with two shooters to cover. McLaughlin saw this defense coming before it happened, and made quick passes to Elijah Stewart before any SMU defender had a chance to recover and contest the shot. A perfect example of this play was Stewart’s go ahead 3 in the final minute. An example of this play can be seen in the following video, starting at 0:34.


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