SMU falls hard, loses at home to Rice 68-52

Jalen Jones

Robert Nyakundi scored 14 points and Jeremiah Samarrippas added 12, but it wasn't enough to overcome an early 14-point deficit set just six minutes into the game. Rice was surprisingly bigger, stronger and faster than SMU and handed the Mustangs their first conference loss of the season.

The game was over six minutes in.

SMU looked to be in for a long night when Rice won the tip and came out fast, striking first as Arsalan Kazemi dunked just seconds into the game. That was followed up one possession later by a 3-pointer from Ahmad Ibrahim. Before the Mustangs could catch their breath, they were down 16-2 at the 13:50 mark.

The Mustangs couldn't overcome such a deficit the rest of the night. The closest they came was within six points of the Owls, who simply played better basketball.

"It was just one of those games," coach Matt Doherty said afterwards. "We were sluggish. We didn't have energy at either end of the floor and they made us pay."

Doherty was baffled in the post-game because he thought his guys had a great three days of practice leading up to tonight's game following a buzzer-beater win at Tulsa Saturday. But that wasn't the case.

"It's just one of those days," Doherty said. "It's like an actor not having it on stage, yet they were prepared. We were prepared. I felt great about it. We weren't sharp."

In a word, Doherty's reasoning behind his team's sloppiness was an interesting one: "Biorhythms," he said.

Asked to define what he meant, the coach said, "It's like when the stars aren't aligned. You feel like you're in a funk. You have cobwebs in your head and that's the way we played."

Rice (10-7, 1-1 C-USA) out-rebounded SMU 36-22, but that's not a stat Doherty loses sleep over.

"We're a little smaller," he said. "I don't like to be out-rebounded, but it's not a stat I'm overly concerned about. I'm more concerned about field goal percentage, defense and assist-to-turnover ratio numbers."

If those are the numbers he worries over, then he's got a lot to worry about.

The Mustangs (9-7, 1-1) shot a terrible 38.8 percent from the floor, making just 19 of 49 shots, and were 26.9 percent from 3-point range. Not to mention they struggled to get to the free throw line. At halftime, they were zero of two (they finished 7 of 14).

Defensively, SMU forced Rice to turn the ball over 17 times, which was one positive on the night, but the assist-to-turnover ratio was a poor 11:13.

Down just six at the break, SMU pressed in the second half.

"We've done it a few times in games early on in the year," he said. "It gives us some juice. But [Rice] broke the press and got some easy ones. So we changed up our offense, tried to go with an attacking offense off ball screens because we weren't getting to the foul line. We tried to change the tempo. We did it in spurts, but it didn't last long enough."

Robert Nyakundi led the Mustangs with 14 points and Jeremiah Samarrippas added 12 plus three steals.

Kazemi, who's averaging double-doubles on the year, had 21 points and 12 rebounds. Ibrahim added 12 points and Lucas Kuipers had 10 for the Owls, who shot 52.1 percent from the floor.

"And again, we just weren't sharp," Doherty said. "And it boggles your mind because we've been sharp in practice."


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