No. 14 SMU goes for outright AAC title against Memphis
The No. 14 SMU Mustangs say they aren’t satisfied with clinching a share of the American Athletic Conference regular-season title.
They also give the strong impression they won’t be satisfied with the outright title, which they can capture with a win over Memphis on Saturday.
“We know our work’s not done,” point guard Shake Milton said after Thursday’s 93-70 win over Tulsa that gave SMU a share of the AAC title. “It’s just getting started for us.”
Article continues below ...
SMU, having won 12 in a row and 22 of its last 23, has aspirations of success beyond the conference level. The Mustangs were denied a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament last season because of NCAA sanctions.
That’s why there was little emotion shown Thursday when SMU (26-4, 16-1) claimed a share of its second AAC title in three years.
“These guys, I can’t wait to see when we really celebrate something,” SMU coach Tim Jankovich said. “They are very even-keeled, emotional-wise. They’re not giddy about anything. Their goals are always bigger. They’re always (acting as if), ‘We expected to do that.’
“They’re happy, but they’re not done and they’re not satisfied.”
One thing that would satisfy SMU is finishing off the season undefeated at home. SMU is 17-0 this season at Moody Coliseum, but Memphis (19-11, 9-8) comes in having righted its ship in a 92-70 win over Tulane on Thursday.
The win snapped a four-game losing streak for Memphis, but only after the Tigers snapped out of some first-half doldrums.
Memphis trailed 39-34 at halftime against Tulane, which has won just two conference games.
Tulane shot 51 percent from the field in the first half but just 32 percent in the second half after Memphis revved up its offense.
Sophomore guard/forward Dedric Lawson scored 29 points on 11-of-15 shooting from the field in what may have been his final home game. Lawson is pondering a jump to professional basketball after the season.
Memphis also forced nine turnovers by Tulane in the second-half comeback.
“The second half proved if we can score, we can be more effective defensively,” Memphis coach Tubby Smith said.
Memphis is tied with Connecticut for fifth place in the AAC. The No. 5 seed lands a first-round bye in next week’s AAC tournament, which runs March 9-12 in Hartford, Conn.
SMU has already clinched a bye and the top seed in the AAC tourney.
The Mustangs will be looking to continue their roll into postseason play and send seniors Sterling Brown, Ben Moore and Jonathan Wilfong out with a win Saturday.
SMU’s seniors have more wins than any other class in the program’s history.
“All our energy, for me, is to make sure that every single one of us in our camp does every single thing we can do to make our seniors’ last day memorable and exciting and fun and perfect,” Jankovich said. “The one thing standing in the way is a very good Memphis team.”