DALLAS (AP) — Now that people are starting to pay attention to No. 19 SMU, maybe they will understand why coach Tim Jankovich keeps talking about these short-handed Mustangs being such a special group.
They just keep finding ways to win games.
Semi Ojeleye scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half, including consecutive 3-pointers in a run that finally put SMU ahead to stay in an 80-75 victory Wednesday night over Tulane, which led by 15 points at halftime.
“We just had to try to win the second half on grit really, and just will. And once again, they did,” Jankovich said. “I have so much respect for our team. … I hoped we learned a good lesson.”
Three days after a comeback win over then-No. 11 Cincinnati to take over the American Athletic Conference lead, and avenging their only loss since November, the Mustangs (23-4, 13-1) had to rally against one of the teams at the bottom of the league standings.
“We might have gotten a little too complacent,” said forward Ben Moore, who had 15 points and 13 rebounds. “We should have approached the game the same way, but we came out slow. I’m glad we got it together toward the end.”
The Mustangs have won nine in a row, and 19 of their last 20. But while they have lost only once since November, this is only their second week this season in the AP poll.
Jarrey Foster had 19 points, including three consecutive dunks in one stretch for SMU. Shake Milton and Sterling Brown each had 13 points.
Cameron Reynolds had 23 points for Tulane (4-21, 1-12), which has a nine-game losing streak
Ojeleye, the former Duke transfer, missed his first 10 shots before making a 3-pointer less than 2 minutes into the second half. Even though he finished 4-of-17 shooting overall, he scored the first eight points in the 13-0 run that put SMU ahead to stay.
The Mustangs were within 56-55 after Ojeleye’s consecutive 3s, and went ahead for the first time when Brown had a steal and a breakaway layup with 9:43 left.
“We knew they’d come back out in the second half and come after us hard,” said first-year Tulane coach Mike Dunleavy Sr., the former NBA coach. “We had a couple of opportunities. Our guys stayed with it.”
Reynolds missed a dunk that would have put Tulane back ahead with 7 minutes left, and Foster followed that with a powerful two-handed dunk. Then came a one-handed slam over a Tulane defender before a putback slam for Foster.
Tulane: This was a chance for a signature win for Tulane under Dunleavy. The Green Wave led 42-27 at the break, and hadn’t trailed by that point. They had gone ahead with 10 consecutive points in a 3-minute span, which Reynolds started with a tiebreaking 3 and capped with a jumper that made it 25-15.
SMU: The Mustangs again played only their six scholarship players, like they did in the 60-51 win over Cincinnati on Sunday. It was the first time in a 20-game span since November that SMU allowed more than 66 points, but that was after Tulane scored 42 before halftime.
WINNING AT HOME
Only four teams have a longer home-court winning streak than SMU’s 20 in a row. Oregon has the longest at 40 straight. Jankovich is 23-0 at home, including all 16 games in his first year as head coach. He won seven home games when filling for previous coach Larry Brown in recent seasons.
SURE TO GO DOWN
Foster’s three consecutive dunks, all in less than 1 1/2 minutes, came right after he had missed what should have been an easy layup following a nifty pass from Ojeleye. “I’m just going to dunk everything from now on because I know it’s going to go in,” Foster said, explaining what he thought after the miss. “It made it so much easier.”
Tulane: plays its next two games at home, starting Saturday against USF.
SMU: at Houston on Saturday, then a week off before playing its final regular-season road game at UConn on Feb. 25.
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