SMU is heading to the Big Apple after dispatching California

SMU defeated California and is heading to Madison Square Garden for the NIT semifinals. Photo Courtesy: Bruce Chandler
SMU defeated California and is heading to the Big Apple for the NIT semifinals. Photo Courtesy: Bruce Chandler

By Jay Betsill

SMU used another dose of Moody Magic on Wednesday night as Nic Moore’s three-pointer, with 6.5 seconds left, put the Mustangs up 67-65 over California. The victory sends SMU to Madison Square Garden in New York City to face Clemson in the NIT Semifinals on Tuesday, April 1.

“We’ve run that play in practice every day. We haven’t used it once in a game, maybe once that I can remember,” Brown said of the seldom-used play that produced the game winner. “We got a wide-open look. I wasn’t thinking of a 3 to be honest with you. I was hoping we’d be able to post the ball, but we had a great shooter make a big shot and not be afraid of it.”

SMU (26-9), snubbed by the NCAA tournament selection committee, finished their first season 12-1 at the renovated Moody Coliseum. Local luminaries on hand for Wednesday night’s sellout included former President George W. Bush, Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, and Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.

The first two games of the NIT had SMU falling behind early before taking over in the second half. The second seeded California Golden Bears would not back down and had success with its zone defense against the SMU offense to the tune of a 44.4 field goal percentage. Cal guards Jabari Bird and Justin Cobb combined for 38 points, but the Moody Magic prevailed. The SMU fans stormed the court to the tune of New York, New York to celebrate not only the win, but the team’s success throughout the season.

For many of the players on the Mustangs roster it will be their first trip to New York City and the famed Garden, but head coach Larry Brown knows all about the World’s Most Famous Arena. Brown spent the 2005-06 season as head coach of the New York Knicks when they were 23-59. Granted, he was saddled with a less than stellar roster put together by then-Knicks GM Isiah Thomas. This will not be Brown’s first return as he went multiple times during his 2 1/2 seasons with the Charlotte Bobcats.

“I don’t know if they’ll let me in,” Brown said. “I did not feel good about New York because I didn’t do a real good job coaching the Knicks. But for my team, growing up, we talked about this, the NIT was huge when I was a boy. … I’m so thankful our kids are going to get to have that opportunity.”

Tickets to the games in New York City can be purchased online at The semifinal game will be televised on ESPN2 with the final to be played on April 3.