SMU lets double overtime game slip in Athens
In front of a hostile crowd in SEC country, SMU had the hometown Bulldogs on the ropes multiple time down the stretch in Athens. But as Sahvir Wheeler rose above a crowded lane to put the game winning basket in the hoop, it was indicative of the Mustangs letting a signature victory slip through the cracks.
Mustangs drop a tough one in double overtime on the road to Georgia, 87-85.#PonyUp
final presented by @ParkPlaceTexas pic.twitter.com/s867x1UhIf
— SMU Basketball (@SMUBasketball) December 21, 2019
If there was any question SMU could compete against some of the top 100 teams in the nation, according to KenPom, the Mustangs at least put those doubts to rest. The question now turns to if this young team can learn how to finish close games. With SMU having the game in their hands at every turn in this contest, Stegeman Coliseum was the scene of some high drama.
“We fought and fought and fought. We had a chance to win every time. We had many chances to win and we just didn’t quite (do it). They would hit the bucket they needed to send it to overtime or to win the game in double overtime,” SMU head coach Tim Jankovich said.
After a first half of game that looked as if it would be a rock fight between the two programs coming off humbling losses, the second half saw an offensive explosion. 28-25 at the intermission, the two teams combined for 119 points the rest of the way. Isiaha Mike epitomized the offensive awakening, scoring all of his career-high 25 points after the break.
Pivotal miscues and empty possessions at untimely moments allowed Georgia to stay in it long enough to find the game winner. Late in the second half, with SMU up 68-67, a foul on a driving Rayshaun Hammonds allowed the Bulldogs to tie the game at the free throw line. Hammonds would finish with 21 points. Back-to-back inbounding turnovers, one off a five second call on SMU, kept the game knotted at 68 going into the extra period.
In the first overtime it was more of the same. SMU controlled the scoreboard once again with under a minute to play but consecutive possessions without ball movement or a bucket allowed Shavir Wheeler to come up with a game tying layup with three ticks left on the clock. These issues were compounded with just one of four shooting at the free throw line.
The final shot also came by way of Wheeler, and was also spurred off a Mustang possession that did not feature much ball movement. Tyson Jolly, SMU’s go-to man offensively, created enough room for a three-point look but it glanced off the front of the rim and fell to Anthony Edwards. Jolly, though, for his part was a competitor for the Mustangs. With 19 points and 10 rebounds, five of which were offensive, Jolly carried SMU as the game waned down to its final minutes.
Out of a Georgia timeout after the rebound, Edwards swung the ball to flip the defense and saw a driving Wheeler. The 5-10 freshman, who had been getting to the rim with ease for the majority of the second half, once again put the ball on the deck and delivered the final basket of the night to give the Bulldogs a 87-85 win to stay a perfect 6-0 at home.
“A lot of really good things, no question. I feel very good about a lot of the things I saw, but it is just a very painful way to lose a game,” Jankovich said.
The game was not all just frantic finishes before the buzzer though. The contest might have been won and lost in the first half. Georgia’s potential lottery pick, Anthony Edwards, was relegated to the bench for half of the first 20 minutes due to foul trouble. SMU, however, could not capitalize on his absence or get any separation from a team that just trying to stay afloat with its leader on the bench.
“I thought we really controlled the first half but could not have shot more poorly. Just naked ‘Horse’ shots and we couldn’t make any of them,” Jankovich said. “So we could have really stretched out on them in the first half. I really thought we could have easily been up eight or ten, maybe more.”
SMU shot 25 percent from three-point range while Georgia inched its way to nearly 40 percent shooting from distance.
The extra time also took its toll defensively for SMU. With four players logging over 42 minutes, the defense eventually wore down to give Georgia space to operate late in the game.
The loss moves SMU to 8-2 on the season and it will be back at home on Monday against Georgia State.