By Dylan Edwards, SMUMustangs.com
GREENVILLE, N.C. (SMU) – SMU’s mantra has been next man up after the rash of injuries year, and that was the winning formula on Wednesday night. The Mustangs started hot and never let up, blowing past ECU, 77-58, to get back in the win column.
The Mustangs had struggled to find offensive consistency without leading scorer Shake Milton over the past five games, but that changed against the Pirates. Production came from numerous Mustangs stepping up, as five SMU players finished with double-digit point totals.
Junior Jahmal McMurray led the way, as he’s done frequently since SMU has been without Milton, with 20 points. McMurray was especially lethal from outside, knocking down 6-of-9 shots from 3-point range. As a team, 3-point shooting was a big reason for the uptick in offense. SMU shot better 50 percent while knocking down 11-of-21 from deep.
Senior Ben Emelogu II, who also has been battling through some nagging injuries, showed a return to form on Wednesday as well, dropping in 16 points while shooting 50 percent from the field. Emelogu was especially important early on as SMU jumped out to a lead by hitting three shots in the first five minutes. Emelogu also led the team with six assists on a night where SMU’s ball movement seemed much more crisp.
McMurray and Emelogu were joined in double figures by Jimmy Whitt (13 points), Akoy Agau (11 points), and Elijah Landrum (11 points). Landrum’s 11 points marked the first time in his young SMU career to reach double-digits.
On top of balanced scoring, the Mustangs rebounded extremely well as a team. SMU finished with a healthy advantage on the glass because six Mustangs grabbed at least five rebounds, led by Emelogu and freshman William Douglas with seven apiece. It’s the first time since the Northern Iowa game back in November where six Mustangs finished with 5+ rebounds.
SMU’s defense locked down the Pirates’ offense, holding ECU to just 34 percent shooting from the floor and 28 percent from 3-point range. The Mustangs were able to force ECU into 13 turnovers which led to 19 points for SMU.
The Mustangs never trailed in the contest, and the game was only tied for 20 seconds as SMU dominated from tip to buzzer on the road.
SMU returns home on Saturday, February 24 to host No. 12 Wichita State for a 1 p.m. tip.