SMU Whips Cal Poly

By Dylan Edwards, SMUMustangs.com

DALLAS (SMU) – In the season opener, just over two months ago, the Mustangs went to the locker room for halftime trailing against UMBC in Moody Coliseum. SMU stormed back in the second and won by double-figures, but head coach Tim Jankovich urged everyone to remain patient with this year’s team. 

UNIVERSITY PARK, TX - DECEMBER 19: Southern Methodist Mustangs guard Jimmy Whitt (31) brings the ball up court during the game between SMU and Cal Poly State on December 19, 2017, at Moody Coliseum in Dallas, TX. (Photo by George Walker/DFWsportsonline)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, TX - DECEMBER 19: Southern Methodist Mustangs guard Jimmy Whitt (31) brings the ball up court during the game between SMU and Cal Poly State on December 19, 2017, at Moody Coliseum in Dallas, TX. (Photo by George Walker/DFWsportsonline)

A common question of the offseason was asking how quickly this year’s SMU team, that returned only the three rotation players of Shake Milton, Jarrey Foster, and Ben Emelogu II, could mesh together on the court and follow the championship season of last year without the same veteran presence. 

The Mustangs found its footing faster than even the coaching staff probably expected. With the Tuesday night victory against Cal Poly, SMU finished its rigorous non-conference slate with a very impressive 10-3 mark. 




In just the sixth game of the season, this year’s team became just the second team in school history to knock off a No. 2 ranked opponent, taking down Arizona in the Bahamas. A week later, they accomplished something even last year’s team did not. SMU invited USC to Moody Coliseum and sent them back home with a convincing 17-point loss. The victory last night against Boise State was equally impressive, as the Mustangs essentially ran the Broncos out of the gym.

“I like where we are,” Jankovich said. “We’re not where we’re going to be, and we have a lot of room for improvement. Our last several games, we’re playing our best basketball. It’s not good enough, and we can be better. About this this time of the year, it’s important that the energy is increasing and the intensity, determination, and camaraderie are higher than they were two and a half months ago. I feel that. I felt it last year. I feel it this year.”

A big reason for the team’s growth is because the question marks at the beginning of the season have faded. Milton, Foster, and Emelogu have been as advertised, if not even better than the high bar that was set for them. Emelogu, in particular, has more than doubled his 3-point percentage from last year, becoming an added weapon on the offensive end with his deadeye shooting. 

“If you look at Ben last year, he just started slow. He didn’t end slow,” Jankovich said. “The goal he’s shooting at is just bigger than other people’s. It’s so fun for me to see because he’s such a great young man. He’s a giver, and all he wants to do is win. He just wants to win and he shoots to win.”

However, it was going to take more than those three for this team to be successful. Sitting out last season after his transfer, Jimmy Whitt has transitioned nearly flawlessly into Jankovich’s system. He embraces the defensive end of the ball, and the ball handling combo of Milton and Whitt give the Mustangs extreme flexibility on offense. Whitt has really found his groove shooting too, draining 41 of his 53 shots over the last six games.

The Mustangs found an extremely talented big man in Ethan Chargois, as well. The freshman has already been named conference Rookie-of-the-Week twice and is skilled for a guard, let alone a 6-9 big man. His range offensively extends well beyond the 3-point range, and he’s more than capable of putting the ball on the ground. 

It’s a small sample size, but it appears like the Mustangs found a spark plug bench scorer as well in Jahmal McMurray. He provided a big lift with his 16 points off the bench in his first game as a Mustang against Boise. 

“We’re starting to find our identity as a team,” Foster said. “All of the pieces are starting to fall together and the puzzle is coming together. I like the way it’s looking. We’re talking more. As a team, we’re helping each other out.”

After a week off, the season resets a bit when the Mustangs take the floor again for the first conference game against UCF. The difficult slate to open the season will no doubt benefit the team entering a title defense conference slate as more tough matchups await. The addition of Wichita State has been well documented, but the conference as a whole seems much improved this season. Out of the other 10 teams in the conference KenPom currently ranks 6 of them more highly now than at the end of last season. The conference has become deeper and the top portion of the conference especially, as SMU has shown this season, can beat anyone.