By Jay Betsill
SMU‘s 80-67 victory over LSU in the second round of the NIT was a tale of two halves.
The Mustangs (25-9), seeded first in their region, found themselves down 38-28 to the fifth-seeded Tigers (20-14) with 3:35 remaining in the first half and were able to close the gap to 40-35 at halftime. When the second half got underway, it appeared that SMU’s legendary head coach Larry Brown must have made some significant adjustments in the locker room as the Mustangs went on a 26-9 run to effectively put the game out of reach.
SMU was led by Nick Russell and Nic Moore, with 16 points each. Russell, a senior from Duncanville who played his first two seasons at Kansas State, also led SMU with seven rebounds. The team’s balanced offense took shape in the second half and allowed the Mustangs to prevent the easy shots and fast breaks enjoyed by the Tigers in the first half.
“When you make shots, you get to set your defense,” Brown said. “We made shots, so we could guard in the half court better. We didn’t allow them to get out in transition.”
While LSU initially quieted Moody Coliseum’s eighth sellout crowd, the fans awoke in the second half to epic proportions as players and coaches alike agreed that this night was the loudest it had been since the building reopened in January.
“This environment here is as good as any. This was the loudest we’ve been in the building and we’ve played Memphis, Cincinnati, Louisville, Connecticut, big games here,” Brown said. “I was hopeful that we would have a home court, we have a beautiful building, but I never imagined it would be like this.”
SMU will host No. 2 seed California this Wednesday at Moody Coliseum with tipoff at 8pm.