DALLAS (AP) — Jahmal McMurray, the smallest Mustang, lifted his SMU teammates out of a slump on Thursday night.
McMurray scored a game-high 25 points, including three straight layups in a 12-2 run late in the first half, and SMU went on to beat UConn 77-59.
“I’d definitely give (McMurray) an A,” teammate Jimmy Whitt said. “He can get other guys involved with assists and rebounds. He can do all aspects of the game.”
The game was tied at 24 before the Mustangs regained the lead with 3-pointers by Nat Dixon and Isiaha Mike before McMurray began slicing through the UConn defense to build SMU’s lead to 36-26 with 2:24 remaining in the half.
McMurray, 6-foot senior, shot 10 for 14 from the field for the Mustangs (13-12, 5-8 American Athletic Conference). He had 15 points in the second half. Ethan Chargois and Mike scored 14 each, and Feron Hunt had 11.
SMU coach Tim Jankovich noted McMurray’s efficiency with the ball.
“What we’re asking him to do is to try plays for others. The only way you do that is to drive the ball. Not only was he getting in the paint, he was getting all the way to the basket.”
Mike added eight rebounds and three blocks. Chargois also had eight rebounds.
SMU ended a five-game losing streak.
“We lost three games on our last possession,” Jankovich said, “but you get nothing for that.”
Tyler Polley had 19 points for the Huskies (13-13, 4-9), whose losing streak stretched to four games. Christian Vital added 14 points.
“We dishonored the uniform today. We embarrassed ourselves,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said. “There wasn’t an aspect of the game that we did a good job with besides maybe offensive rebounding the multitude of misses.”
The Mustangs evened the season series against the Huskies with the win. Connecticut defeated SMU 76-64 on Jan. 10.
SMU scored the game’s first seven points and increased the lead to nine at 14-5.
The Huskies battled back to take their first lead at 19-18 on a 3-pointer by Polley with 8:31 left in the first half.
UConn was in the game earlier in the half because the visitors made 5 of their first 10 3-point attempts, including two each by Polley and Vital. The visitors missed the final three from 3-point range.
A bigger problem for UConn was the inside game. The Huskies were 4-for-21 on 2-point attempts (19 percent), and SMU outrebounded them 21-15 in the first half.
The Mustangs extended their lead to as many as 19 points, on a 3-pointer by Changois for a 64-45 advantage.
UConn: It’s increasingly clear that the Huskies will have to excel, if not win, in the conference tournament to reach the postseason. UConn could help their postseason destiny. They’ll play two of the top four teams in the conference – Cincinnati and Temple – but both games would be at home.
SMU: The Mustangs kept alive slim hopes to qualify for postseason play. SMU faces an uphill battle with games remaining against the conference’s top three teams – ninth-ranked Houston on the road, Cincinnati and UCF.
SMU shot a season-best 57 percent (28 for 49) from the field and held UConn to a season-low 30 percent (21 for 70). Mustangs coach Tim Jankovich credited a switch to 2-3 zone from the team’s customary man-to-man defense.
SMU has a 5-0 record against UConn on the Moody Coliseum court, though a 2013-14 win later was forfeited. Had the Mustangs lost Thursday, they would have had a three-game home losing streak, the longest in their six seasons since the coliseum renovation.
UConn: With five regular-season games remaining, the Huskies will host Cincinnati on Sunday. “If we’re going to show up like that, it’s going to look even worse,” Hurley said. “There will be changes.” The Bearcats are just outside The AP Top 25 with 99 points, 65 behind No. 25 Buffalo. UConn took a narrow 74-72 loss at Cincinnati on Jan. 12.
SMU: The Mustangs will travel to play at Central Florida on Sunday. They lost at home against UCF 71-65 on Feb. 10.