SMU used a huge second half surge to comeback and beat Clemson in the NIT semifinals, 65-59, at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night.
The Mustangs were led by big man Markus Kennedy who finished with 21 points, nine rebounds, and three steals on eight for 13 shooting in the game. When he wasn’t in foul trouble, Kennedy was very effective against a tough and physical Clemson team in the paint.
For the game, Kennedy was also five for six at the free throw line and did a great job protecting the rim on defense. There was a lot of talk about Clemson big men K.J. McDaniels and Landry Nnoko heading into the game, but it was SMU’s sophomore big man who ended up stealing the headlines in New York.
In the last game at Moody Coliseum this year, SMU sophomore point guard Nic Moore had perhaps the most magical moment of the season.
Moore hit a game-winning three-pointer for the Mustangs with under 10 seconds left to play to beat California and advance out of the quarterfinals of the NIT.
Moore finished the game with 11 points on 4 for 11 shooting in a game where he struggled early, but came alive in the second half. Moore also had three assists and only two turnovers against Cal guard Justin Cobbs.
After being left out of the NCAA tournament by the selection committee this past weekend, SMU is out to prove a point in the 2014 National Invitational Tournament.
The Mustangs, a No. 1 seed in this year’s NIT, will take on the Big West regular season conference champions, the University of California-Irvine, in the first round Wednesday night at Moody Coliseum.
The Mustangs (23-9, 12-6) are making their third NIT appearance after previous trips in 1986 and 2000.
Larry Brown’s team had one of the best years in program history, including earning the most wins since 1987 and finishing third in the tough American Athletic Conference.
After losing three straight games to finish the season, the SMU basketball team was left out of the NCAA tournament for yet another season. Their strength of schedule seemed to be the biggest reason why the committee decided Larry Brown’s team was not worthy of a bid. At 23-9 overall, the Mustangs will be the #1 seed the NIT and play UC-Irvine on Wednesday night at Moody Coliseum.
Here are some quotes from today’s practice:
Senior forward Shawn Williams: “I didn’t sleep at all last night. I will probably never get over it because I’m a senior.”
Senior guard Nick Russell: “I was extremely surprised. I thought we had a great season. It hurts, but we can’t dwell or we will lose.”