The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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SMU advances in C-USA with first tournament win in two seasons

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The Mustangs had the first game of the Conference USA Men’s Championship and also produced the first tournament upset, edging Rice 61-59.

The victory was SMU’s first in a conference tournament since 2004, when SMU beat Tulsa 79-60 in the first round of the Western Athletic Conference tournament.

SMU was led by juniors Donatas Rackauskas and Devon Pearson, who each scored 15 points.

Pearson was especially clutch, staving off a late Rice run in the second half.

With the Owls only trailing 42-41 with eight minutes left, Pearson took control for SMU. He stole the ball while Rice was attempting to set up its offense and raced down the floor – forcing a Rice foul.

Pearson made both free throws, and after the Mustangs got a key stop on the defensive end, he nailed a 15-foot jumper to put SMU up 46-41.

Rice then went on a mini-run to tie the score 46-46 when Pearson drained another jumper to put the Mustangs up for good.

“We were smart about the way we played,” Pearson said.

The teams traded baskets for the final minutes, with Rackauskas providing the final points for SMU. He made two free throws with 22 seconds left to extend the SMU lead to five and dunked the ball on a breakaway that sealed the SMU win.

The Mustangs’ win was impressive considering senior and leading scorer Bryan Hopkins went scoreless, going zero for seven from the field, and freshman sensation Bamba Fall stayed in Dallas because of a nagging back injury.

SMU started the game strong, opening with an 8-0 lead and holding Rice scoreless for the first five minutes.

“It’s always a blessing to get that start and that confidence,” sophomore Jon Killen said.

Rice junior Morris Almond once again went on a scoring frenzy, racking up 28 points and accounting for nearly half of the Owls’ score.

SMU’s record improves to 13-15 overall with the win, while the Owls finish the season at 12-16.

The Mustangs advance to the quarterfinals for the first time under coach Jimmy Tubbs, facing the second seed University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“We almost had them at home last time, but if we come out the way we did today then it can happen,” Pearson said of UAB.

SMU played UAB close at Moody Coliseum on Feb. 25 but came up short, losing 73-68.

The quarterfinal game will tip-off at noon today, and can be seen on CSTV or listened to on KAAM 770 AM.

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