Madison Magic? SMU Beats Clemson 65-59; Advance to NIT Final

Published: Apr 02, 2014 05:32am EDT
By Michael Owen, Sports Writer for Konsume Sports

Please Note: This article was updated Apr 02, 2014 @ 02:38pm EDT


(New York, NY) – The SMU Mustangs took some of their magic on the road to The Big Apple and came back from as many as 13 down to beat the Clemson Tigers 65-59 in the NIT Semi Final played at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night.

Markus Kennedy was named player of the game as he led all scorers with 21 points on 8-13 shooting.  Kennedy also pulled down 9 rebounds and came away 3 steals.  Nic Moore contributed 13 points while Nick Russell chipped in 10.

Rod Hall led the Tigers with 18 points while team scoring leader K.J. McDaniels was held to just 11.

The game was dominated by Clemson in the first half as they started the game fast and led 10-2 only 2:51 into the game.  The Mustangs managed to climb back into the game and tie it up at 13-13 before Clemson went on to outscore SMU 25-13 to close out the first half with the lead 38-26.

At the half Clemson seemed to be in complete control after shooting 56% while going 14-25 in the opening 20 minutes and holding SMU to only 37% on 10-27 shooting.

Things looked good for Clemson as they extended their lead early in the 2nd half after a 3 pointer by McDaniels gave the Tigers their biggest lead at 41-28 less than a minute into the half.  This was not unchartered territory for Larry Brown’s Mustangs as they have been behind by as many as 8 points in all three of their previous post season wins.

“I think first half, Clemson did about as well as any team that we've played against” Brown said after the game.  “They controlled the tempo. They had much more energy than us. They executed great and we didn't have much to say at halftime except that we had to match their energy, possibly play harder than them.”

The Mustangs then took control of the game and went on a 17-4 run capped by Nick Russell’s 3-pointer to tie the game at 45-45 with 10:26 left in the game, but they didn’t take their first lead of the game until Kennedy sank two free throws at 5:08 to put the Ponies up 55-53, a lead they would never relinquish.

“I thought that was the best half we played all year to hold them to 21 after the way they dominated us in the first half was really exciting” said Brown.

The Mustangs outscored the Tigers 39-21 on 59% shooting while holding Clemson to 24% in the second half.  For the game SMU outrebounded Clemson 35-25, the 25th time in 36 games the Ponies had outrebounded their opponent. The Mustangs are 20-5 when having the rebounding advantage.

Coach Brown who was born in Brooklyn and raised in nearby Long Beach seemed nostalgic when discussing playing the NIT in the Garden. 

“I love this place. I'm not happy with the job I did with the Knicks, but I grew up loving the Garden. I wanted our guys to experience what I grew up looking forward to. We are just so privileged to be in this tournament. I grew up realizing how great the NIT was.” Brown said.

Brown and the Mustangs will get a couple of more days to enjoy the sights of New York as they have earned a trip to the finals Thursday to play Minnesota who defeated Florida State 67-64 in the late game.

The Ponies however seem to be all business and have their mind set on one thing and that’s winning a championship.

“We haven't had a lot of nice things happen at SMU for a long, long time” Brown continued, “so if we were fortunate enough to win a championship like this, and I was part of it, it would be pretty neat.”

They’ll get that chance on Thursday.


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