Tag: Nick Russell


Turnovers prove costly for No. 18 SMU in loss to No. 11 Louisville

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No. 18 SMU entered Wednesday’s game against No. 11 Louisville with an outside shot of winning the American Athletic Conference regular season title, which would have been a monumental achievement for Larry Brown’s program. But the Mustangs dropped an 84-71 decision to the Cardinals, and while Russ Smith’s 26-point night will get most of the attention (and rightfully so) turnovers proved to be just as much of an issue for SMU.

SMU, which entered the game ranked fifth in the American in turnover margin and seventh in assist-to-turnover ratio, committed 23 turnovers and finished a minus-9 in turnover margin. On multiple occasions those mistakes turned into Louisville points on the other end, as the Cardinals converted those turnovers into 25 points (SMU scored nine points off of Louisville’s 14 turnovers).

Louisville may have outscored SMU by 27 points from beyond the arc (39-12), but the extra possessions that came as a result of SMU being too loose with the basketball is what truly did the Mustangs in. Nic Moore struggled, spending an extended amount of time on the bench in the second half due to foul trouble and finished with five points (2-for-3 FG) and four turnovers. And the same can be said for Nick Russell even with the senior scoring a team-high 18 points, as he also committed eight turnovers.

Against a team the caliber of Louisville, especially considering their ability to pressure full-court, how well the guards take care of the basketball is the difference between winning and losing on most nights. Limit the turnovers and limit the Cardinals’ opportunities to get out in the open floor, thus creating offense by way of the live-ball turnover. SMU didn’t do that, resulting in a loss in their home finale.

The question moving forward is whether or not the turnovers are a major concern for SMU as they move closer to the NCAA tournament. Per Ken Pomeroy’s numbers SMU ranks eighth in the American in turnover percentage, turning the ball over on 20.1% of their possessions in conference play. That’s something that will need to be addressed, beginning with their game at Memphis on Saturday afternoon.

Defensively SMU’s been very good all season long, and that attribute is one reason why they’ve won games in spite of the turnover percentage. But while this isn’t a reason to panic, the Mustangs will need to tighten things up in that regard if they want their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1993 to consist of more than just one game.

SMU picks up much-needed quality road win at No. 21 UConn

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Larry Brown’s SMU Mustangs have been much-improved this season, entering Sunday’s game at No. 21 UConn with 21 wins and a 10-4 record in American Athletic Conference play. Among those results are home victories over the Huskies, No. 11 Cincinnati and No. 22 Memphis, but something was missing from their resume: a quality win away from Moody Coliseum.

That changed on Sunday afternoon, as the Mustangs were able to keep Shabazz Napier under control for much of the afternoon on their way to a 64-55 win at Gampel Pavilion. The win is SMU’s first on the road against a ranked team since December 21, 2003, when they beat then-No. 17 Purdue 60-59 in West Lafayette. And the achievement couldn’t come at a better team for SMU, which is looking to earn its first NCAA tournament berth since 1993.

The story of the day was defense, with the Mustangs entering the game leading the American in field goal percentage defense and ranked third in both three-point percentage defense and adjusted defensive efficiency. Conference opponents managed to shoot just 38.6% from the field against SMU, with their length on the wings being one reason as to why. Against UConn that length was used to defend Napier, with guard Nick Russell getting the assignment for much of the afternoon as opposed to the smaller Nic Moore.

Napier finished the game with 15 points, scoring 12 in the second half, but he shot just 5-for-16 from the field and committed five turnovers while dishing out just two assists. Napier’s the first option any team hoping to neutralize UConn has to take away, and the Mustangs were able to do so. The defensive effort wasn’t limited to stopping Napier either, as SMU slowed down Ryan Boatright (3-for-12 FG) and held UConn to 29% shooting from the field and 6-for-21 from beyond the arc.

SMU shot 46% from the field and 6-for-12 from beyond the arc, but the Mustangs did have some issues with turnovers as they committed 15 on the afternoon. Moore (five assists), Russell (four assists) and Markus Kennedy (13 points, seven rebounds) all scored in double figures for SMU, and Sterling Brown (3.4 rpg) more than doubled his rebounding average by grabbing eight boards.

SMU still has two more opportunities to pick up quality wins before the conference tournament, as they’ll host No. 7 Louisville and visit No. 22 Memphis to end the regular season. But with their best road win to date coming at Wyoming the Mustangs really needed to pick up a quality result away from home. On Sunday Larry Brown’s team took care of business, moving closer to their goal of reaching the NCAA tournament as a result.