The SMU Mustangs defeated the UC Irvine Anteaters 68-54 on Thursday night in the first round match up in the NIT tournament. The mood was set early on with the Crowd starting a chant of “SMU” before the opening tip, unfortunately for the Mustangs, they had a little bit of a sluggish start, but were able to adjust during the course of the game to turn a slow start into a fast win.
Early on the Anteaters were quick to jump on the sluggish Mustangs and take advantage of what perceived to be a team rebounding from a let down of being snubbed. But once the Mustangs got into the game and adjusted to UC Irvine’s center 7’6 Mamadou Ndiaye and their style, it seemed the “moody magic” came alive. But towards the end of the game the magic turned into pure madness.
Once the mustangs came out in the 2nd half, it looked like they had their “sea legs” under them and they started to really work and take control of the game. Behind leading scorer Cannen Cunningham with his 17 points, the Mustangs slowly kept building bigger and bigger leads as the clock ticked away in the second half. But Ndiaye from UC Irvine made it tough for SMU with 7 blocks in 30 minutes of play on this night. You could feel the momentum keep shifting in the arena and every time it did, the crowd went nuts.
While the crowd wasn’t a sell out, it was a very loud and boisterous crowd which seemed to lift the Mustangs when they were struggling. Larry Brown even made a comment in the post game about how loud the crowd was. This game was a good test for the Mustangs right out of the gate because even though they feel slighted by the committee from the NCAA tournament, the quality of opponents will only get better as they go deeper into the NIT. The Anteaters easily looked like a team that should have been in the “Big dance”, and this game looked more like an NCAA tournament game than an NIT game.
SMU will host LSU, in the second round. The game will be played on Monday night at 8:00pm at Moody Coliseum. The game should be televised on ESPNU.
Please be sure to follow me on Twitter and Facebook