By Dylan Edwards, SMUMustangs.com
ORLANDO, Fla. (SMU) – Akoy Agau provided the best performance of his Mustang career, while Ben Emelogu II and Jahmal McMurray each were vital offensively as SMU advanced at the AAC Championship, knocking off UConn, 80-73, on Thursday.
Agau finished with a career-high 21 points on exceptional 7-of-8 shooting to give the Mustangs a steady offensive threat in both halves. The senior was the only player on either team to score double-digits in both halves.
Emelogu scored a team-high 23 points, including knocking down four shots from 3-point range. The four 3s were the most by the senior since December, as he looked much more like himself from earlier in the season when he was healthy. Emelogu once again showed great energy to lead the Mustangs with eight rebounds as a guard.
McMurray, who’s been the most consistent scorer in absence of leading scorer Shake Milton, once again delivered, scoring 19 points. The big games by Agau and Emelogu allowed McMurray to be a little more selective with his shots, leading to an efficient 8-of-14 night.
SMU used hot shooting from Emelogu and McMurray to build a lead in the first half with each hitting two-apiece. As a team, the Mustangs buried 7-of-13 shots from 3-point range in the first 20 minutes. On top of that, Agau scored 10 first-half points and was a perfect 3-for-3 from the floor. The result was 42 first-half points, the most in a game without Milton, and a 19-point halftime lead.
UConn didn’t go quietly, cutting the lead to single-digits before the first stoppage of the second half. However, the Mustangs had an answer. McMurray and Emelogu combined to score 13 of SMU’s next 16 points, and the lead was extended a game-high 21 points at the 11:42 mark.
The Huskies kept pushing down the stretch, but the Mustangs’ lead was too much to overcome. SMU knocked down eight big free-throws over the final minute of play to close out the Huskies. The Mustangs were good at the line for the entire contest, hitting nearly 80 percent of their 23 shots.
The Mustangs now have won seven-straight conference tournament games and face No. 1 seed Cincinnati Friday at 11 a.m. CT.