Nick Russell finished with 15 points and Nic Moore chipped in with 14 as SMU picked up their biggest win in the Larry Brown era on Saturday night, smacking around No. 7 Cincinnati in Moody Coliseum and eventually winning 76-55.
The Mustangs held Cincinnati to 35.4% and 4-for-22 from three, which isn’t exactly a shock given how inept the Bearcats can be on the offensive end of the floor when Sean Kilpatrick is having an off-night and how improved SMU is on that end of the floor; they’re 17th in defensive efficiency this year, as opposed to 151st last season. What was surprising, however, is that SMU managed to shoot 54.3% from the field against a Bearcat D that had built a reputation as one of the toughest and most physical in the country.
It was a beatdown.
SMU was clearly the better team on this night, and it wasn’t even close.
It was the third time that SMU has beaten a ranked team on their home court, which is probably the best sign of just how far this program has come under head coach Larry Brown, who is more than a decade or two past the age where you’re still celebrating birthdays with numbers. Moody was sold out on Saturday night in a game on national television in front of a student section that could only be described as raucous.
The biggest hurdle Brown had to clear at SMU was fan apathy. He’s done that, fielding a team full of transfers that will likely see their first national ranking in almost three full decades on Monday morning.
Here’s the crazier part, however: this was supposed to be the year before the year. Next season, SMU has the nation’s top point guard, Emmanuel Mudiay, coming into the program to join a team that will basically bring everyone back next year. Keith Frazier, the all-american wing that Brown brought in from the Class of 2013, still hasn’t reached his potential.
Most importantly, SMU had their biggest win in decades in their best performance of the season in front of a terrific college basketball environment all while a ridiculous amount of local high school talent was in attendance: Elijah Thomas (No. 9 2015), Jawun Evans (No. 59 2015), Matt McQuaid (No. 58 2015), Austin Grandstaff (No. 32 2015), King McClure (No. 14 2015), Admon Gilder (No. 123 2015), Terrance Ferguson (No. 10 2016), P.J. Washington (2017).
The state of Texas has as much hoops talent as anywhere in the country right now, and those players have to go somewhere. Rick Barnes of Texas hasn’t seemed to care about recruiting in recent summers. Scott Drew has brought in some talent to Baylor, but his teams — and players — always seem to underachieve. Texas A&M isn’t relevant right now. Neither is Texas Tech and Houston.
That leaves SMU.
Where a hall of fame coach with impressive NBA credentials is already winning games and already has a McDonald’s all-american this season with another on the way.
Who knows how long Brown’s coaching career actually lasts, and speculating about a group of uncommitted high school juniors would be getting way — WAY — ahead of myself.
But right now, the pieces are in place for Brown to turn SMU into a powerhouse in the AAC.
I guess that was a pretty good hire after all.