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 leaves New York thumped and rattled into new place

Ben Moore (00) looks to pass as Zak Irvin defends on Friday at Madison Square Garden. (Photo Credit: SMU Athletics).

NEW YORK CITY – A finer display of irony might not exist.

A mostly mild Tim Jankovich answered questions in a postgame press conference as a bass shook the walls of a Madison Square Garden media workroom tucked in a hallway.

A musical act called Porter Robinson and Madeon played its electronic tunes at a postgame concert in The Theatre at the Garden. But perhaps the only thumping louder than its bass was SMU getting thumped 76-54 by Michigan, a team it clobbered the two previous years.

SMU, which is used to rattling its home arena on a regular basis, could do nothing to avoid Michigan rattling down 3-pointers and dunks like the sounds Porter Robinson and Madeon calls music rattled the world’s most famous arena.

Such a feeling is unfamiliar to SMU – probably as unfamiliar as most people are with Porter Robinson and Madeon.

SMU had not lost a game by double digits since Nov. 17, 2014 at Gonzaga. Tim Jankovich lost a game for the first time as SMU’s head coach. Two years plus a day, and 51 wins, in between blowout losses. Jankovich’s first loss in 13 tries at SMU. Associating SMU with blowout losses is stranger than associating Porter Robinson and Madeon with any traditional musical category.

Michigan scored 10 baskets around the rim and shot 42 percent from 3-point distance. Michigan’s 1.31 points per possession on Thursday was the highest against SMU since it joined the American Conference.

“I thought they were terrific,” Jankovich said of Michigan. “I could not say enough great things about their team. I don’t know if this is how they’ll play most of the time. If it is, they’re going to have a heck of a year.”

A season ago, Michigan head coach John Beilein delivered a similar line. In a home-and-home series in 2014 and 2015, SMU beat Michigan by 11 in Ann Arbor, then by 24 at Moody Coliseum. The Wolverines shot a combined 25 percent from 3 and didn’t top 0.9 points per possession in either game.

Michigan scored fewer than 60 points in both losses to SMU, unable to move the ball to get open shots while Jordan Tolbert dunked nine times. Whether out of the pick-and-roll, a cut to the basket or a post-up, Michigan’s big men couldn’t guard him. When they tried to help, they left shooters open from 3.

“The last loss we had to them, we basically got punked through the whole game,” Michigan guard Zak Irvin said.

Where SMU is now, Michigan was then. Unable to move the ball, settling for contested jump shots, unable to guard any kind of cut or action toward the basket, especially one by a forward.

Lopsided losses aren’t uncommon in college basketball, not even among perennial NCAA tournament teams. Sometimes, the direction teams go after them tells more than the loss itself.

The challenge for SMU is figuring out how to respond after a type of loss it so rarely experiences. Jankovich doesn’t concern himself with margins of victories or defeats, so he may not even see it as much of a challenge at all. But he’s also not one to tell a team to simply move on after such a performance.

“I don’t think you want to forget,” Jankovich said. “I don’t think you want to just go, ‘hey, don’t worry about that.’

“I think you learn the most when you’re in pain. I think you change the most when you’re in pain. I think, when something hurts, that’s when you make changes.”

Perhaps the blowout will help the Mustangs re-focus. They need to figure out how to get back to running the pretty offense Jankovich likes and how to avoid leaving the rim so vulnerable without leaving shooters wide open consequently.

SMU made in-season fixes the last time it was blown out. After starting 2-3 in 2014-15, with three failed chances to beat a good nonconference opponent, SMU lost three games the rest of the regular season and made the NCAA Tournament.

Jankovich called the team a work in progress – also an uncommon association with SMU basketball of late. But at this stage in the season, the 2014-15 team looked a bit like one too. Whatever learning he thinks SMU needs to do, the team has a chance to show it has learned next Friday at USC. It’s SMU’s first true road game and another matchup against an opponent that possesses athletic big men.

“We’re not going to pass up a chance (to learn),” Jankovich said. “I don’t care what happens – win by 27, losing by whatever, overtime game, I don’t care what. We need to learn lessons if we’re going to get better and grow as a team by the year’s end.”

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