After battling Pitt in double overtime, EMU immediately had to hop on a plane to Dallas and play the SMU Mustangs. Well, that obviously didn’t happen, but I am sure it seemed like it to the team, especially since their flight was delayed.
It didn’t help that they had to play against a Mustang team that lost exactly 1 game at home last season.
Both teams played with a lot of energy early, and were very active on defense. This flustered EMU early and often, as they couldn’t establish James Thompson IV. Eventually, they just settled for threes.
On the flip side, SMU found the weakness in the EMU zone, the back door alley-oop. This resulted in over half a dozen dunks.
The Mustangs led 46-32 at the half. Willie Magnum IV was a bright spot off the bench for the Eagles, scoring 16 and going 4-10 from beyond the arc. A couple were way beyond the arc. Three Mustangs scored double digits in the first half, Jarrey Foster, Shake Milton, and Semi Ojeleye.
SMU had the rebounding edge, 20-11, and made 14-18 free throws. EMU went 3 out of 4.
The second half didn’t go any better for EMU. The strategy of making a team that should be tired shoot threes was a good one. SMU packed the lane, forcing Thompson IV out of the game. This clearly frustrated him, and at one point he threw an elbow after a rebound. It wasn’t a particularly vicious elbow, more of an announcement of how unhappy he was with the defense.
The frustration extended to other players and even the coach. After a technical foul was called on Ray Lee, the bench picked up another arguing with the officials.
The packing the lane technique had the added benefit of giving SMU a huge rebounding edge, 44-26.
The Eagles had few bright spots in the game, but they were able to adjust at halftime and stop the alley-oop. Ray Lee, the 6’3 guard from Detroit, came on in the second half, and finished the game with 26 points. Another positive they can take from the game is that they didn’t quit till the end. Their biggest problem was that they ran into a juggernaut.
The Mustangs won over 25 games the last three years in a row. All five starters were able to score in double digits. The most impressive to me was Semi Ojeleye. He finished with 18 points, 9 rebounds and 1 assist. He was the only player out of nine that saw action for the Mustangs that didn’t have 2 or more assists. It’s hard to beat a team that plays that well together.
Kudos on Coach Rob Murphy and company for playing two extremely difficult games in a row. They get Gardner-Webb next, who lost to the same Mustangs, 72-44, in their season opener.