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SMU struggles early but defense rescues the day in opener

The SMU Mustangs trotted to their first win of the season by putting their best defensive foot forward with 12 steals, 20 turnovers, and 32 defensive rebounds to create confusion for Texas State.

SMU Athletics

Dallas, TX — SMU looked to put on an opener that fired on all cylinders against the Texas State Bobcats at Moody Coliseum. Even on a Friday afternoon, the atmosphere was rocking with 2,000 elementary kids chanting “defense” and hitting the occasional dance moves the “dab” and “NaeNae,” throughout the game.

It was also the debut of new head coach Travis Mays for the Mustangs.

While the kids made the atmosphere light and fun, it didn’t make this game any less challenging for the Mustangs, as they held on to win their season opener, 64-56.

SMU’s battle of finding confidence in defending and shooting started early as the Bobcats went 40% from the three-point line in the first quarter and the Mustangs went 0-5 from beyond the arc.

This frustration could have easily set the tone for the game for the ladies to give into, but gears began to shift in the second quarter. The Mustangs started focusing on putting pressure with their man-to-man defense and the Bobcats’ rampant passing game. Coach Mays acknowledged their change in play, by saying that his team was faced with the only thing they could do: defend the ball to build up their confidence.

And that is exactly what they did.

Returning Junior center Klara Bradshaw, opened the first half with a dominating six defensive rebounds and three offensive boards. Her ability to create mayhem in the paint for the Bobcats early on, forced Texas State to settle on jump shots.

The Bobcats complacency allowed Kiara Perry to produce two steals and two turnovers, which ignited some fire to the offense. While it may have been a slow start, SMU found itself scoring 12 points in the paint in the first two-quarters. Perry and Bradshaw created separation from Texas State with a combined 10 points.

After a wild end to the second quarter with multiple steals and turnovers, Southern Methodist University began to showcase their versatile offense with 14-second chance points, compared to the Bobcats four.

Entering the third quarter, the Mustangs had the lead, 25-21, but the team still needed to contain Toshua Leavitt who already knocked down two threes for the Bobcats. Morgan Bolton made a difference when she started guarding Leavitt tightly, forcing a turnover that created a chain of ripple effects as the Mustangs forced 20 Bobcat turnovers.

Dai’ja Thomas came off of the bench to help assist Southern Methodist University in keeping the lead by adding 11 points, pulling down 10 rebounds, plus having three blocks.

Starting forward Alicia Froling stepped up to ensure a SMU win, closing out the game with 15 points and 15 rebounds to bring Coach Mays his first victory as the head coach of the Mustangs.

SMU Athletics

Even though the game didn’t start well for the Mustangs when it came to shooting, they didn’t defer from playing together and give their home crowd the win. SMU was able to adjust during the game to lock down on defense when it was needed most and create offense from their defensive stops.

If there was one thing that stood out today, it was the Mustangs showcasing the ability to lean on one another to play to their strengths of rebounding and playing defense to make things happen on the offensive side of the court.

After the game, Coach Mays echoed that sentiment by adding, “It’s a matter of what you fall back on when you aren’t playing you’re A-game. We didn’t play our A-Game today, but we played hard. We trusted our defense and I think we showed our fans that we will play hard for forty minutes throughout the season.”

The SMU Mustangs look to take on the Kansas Jayhawks in Lawrence, Kansas on Wednesday, Nov. 16 at 7 p.m CT.