The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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


SMU beats Eastern Michigan’s zone defense with ‘unselfish’ offense

Photo credit: Mollie Mayfield

After Shake Milton tossed an alley-oop of the first half to Jarrey Foster, all he could do was smile and shrug. Foster had dunked home an alley-oop four times on Eastern Michigan in the game’s first 14 minutes. This one – his second connection of the game with Foster – came just a few feet from half court.

“We know each other and how we each think,” Foster said. “I know he’s unselfish, so I try to get out and run, and he’ll get the ball to me.”

Foster finished the half with five dunks as Mustangs shredded the Eagles’ zone defense in a 91-64 win by shooting 62 percent inside the 3-point line.

How they did that? Dunks, cuts, layups and a whole lot of passing. Of SMU’s 29 made field goals, 26 were assisted. Six SMU players had at least three assists.

“That’s gotta be somewhere near some record,” head coach Tim Jankovich said. “When you play against a zone, you have a chance to get more assists because you’re going to get more chances off the catch. So it’s a little misleading, but still I think it speaks to the unselfishness and chemistry we have right now early in the season.”

Foster’s layup two minutes into the second half was one of SMU’s three unassisted baskets. From the wing, he dribbled through two defenders, Euro-stepped a third and laid the ball in the basket.

“That was pretty darn good, wasn’t it?” Jankovichsaid. “These guys, about once a week, somebody will do something and we’ll all look at each other like, ‘did you see that?”

Foster and Milton, roommates and SMU’s two sophomores, combined for 30 points. Foster had 18, a career-high, and shot 8-for-9 from the floor.

“If you were trading players, they would not be on the trading block,” Jankovich said.

The final score wouldn’t hint at it, but Jankovich spent weeks concerned with Eastern Michigan’s zone and how to score on it. Eagles head coach Rob Murphy brought it over from Syracuse, where he served as an assistant. It’s a 2-3 zone very similar to the Orange’s acclaimed defense. Jankovich first turned on film of it six weeks ago.

“You’ve watched people over the years struggle to attack it,” Jankovich said. “We’ve spend a lot of time over the last four weeks – an inordinate amount of time – with our zone offenses and how to attack different coverages for this game.”

Teams like to attack zone defenses like Eastern by shooting a lot of 3s. Jankovich – the coach who readily talks about his affinity for 3-pointers – wanted to do the opposite.

Two days after 14 of SMU’s first 24 field goal attempts were from 3, SMU only shot a 3-pointer thrice in the first 20 minutes as it built a 46-32 halftime lead. SMU executed Jankovich’s strategy so well that he had to remind his players that shooting a 3-pointer was OK if it was an open shot.

“Early on, because I probably emphasized it so much, Shake passed a couple,” Jankovich said. “I’m like, ‘Shake, shoot the ball. You don’t have to give up those.”

But if giving them up sometimes means building an unselfish mindset, Jankovich will happily accept it.

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