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Men's basketball downed in Dallas by nationally ranked SMU

Hot shooting from beyond arc not enough to overcome No. 25 SMU as skid reaches four games

The men’s basketball team’s pattern of firing away from three-point range has not wavered in its first six games. But Sunday, there was a difference — the shots were going in. Great long-range shooting helped the Bears hang with No. 25 Southern Methodist on the road before the talented Texas opponent pulled out the 77-69 win with former President George W. Bush sitting courtside.

The Bears (1-5) were in striking distance the entire game. A layup by Steven Spieth ’17 that would have cut the SMU lead to five rimmed out with 50 seconds to play.

The Mustangs hit free throws down the stretch to ice an undoubtedly impressive showing for Bruno. While the loss pushed the Bears’ losing streak to four games, a narrow defeat to a nationally ranked opponent bodes well for the team against regional and Ivy competition.

“We aren’t proud of our record or losing, but we understand things are coming together,” said guard Justin Massey ’18.

It is no mystery how the Bears hung around against the Mustangs. Bruno did all its damage from the perimeter. Entering play, Bruno shot the lowest percentage of any team in the top 20 spots on that list — a lukewarm 29.4 percent. In the first two minutes of Sunday’s showdown in Dallas, it was clear that this would be a different story.

The Bears knocked down four threes in their first five possessions, keeping with a blistering offensive pace set by both teams. Neither defense could stop its hot-shooting opponent, and the score ballooned to 20-20 just over five minutes into the game. With Bruno’s nine first-half threes, the long ball accounted for 27 of the team’s 37 points.

“We shot well, especially early,” Spieth said. “We kept telling each other, ‘If it’s open, let it fly.’”

The shooting barrage continued in the second stanza, and the Bears ended the game 15-for-32 from deep. Bruno’s 46.9 percent shooting on three-point field goals was 12 points higher than they have shot in any game this season.

Seven different Bears contributed to the hot shooting. Justin Massey led the way with four as part of his team-high 16 points. Spieth also caught fire, hitting a career-high four three-pointers, and rookie Corey Daugherty ’19 splashed three treys of his own.

“Overall, everybody is confident in their shooting ability,” Justin Massey said. “Literally everybody on our team can knock down a three.”

Mustangs Associate Head Coach Tim Jankovich had kind words for the Bears and their shooting prowess.

“Every player who comes on the floor is a three-point threat,” Jankovich told the Associated Press. “It’s kind of like playing the Golden State Warriors.”

Bruno’s only cold stretch turned out to be the decisive one. After a back-and-forth opening 16 minutes, the Mustangs rattled off an 11-0 run over a three-minute span late in the first half. The streak helped SMU to a 48-37 halftime lead, and outside of that three-minute stretch, the Bears outscored SMU.

Head Coach Mike Martin ’04 was full of praise for the SMU team that led nearly every statistical category except three-pointers. Martin called them a “terrific basketball team,” whose “physical play wore us out down low.”

SMU dominated the paint. The rebound battle was 42-27 in favor of the Mustangs, who grabbed 16 offensive boards. Their physicality down low also led to Brown fouls, and SMU outscored Bruno by nine at the charity stripe.

Guard Keith Frazier ran the show for SMU. Early shooting success helped him to 23 points — a career high.

Cedric Kuakumensah ’16 was Bruno’s only significant interior presence on either side of the ball, racking up 13 points, seven boards and three blocks.

It was a special game for Spieth, a Dallas native who had over 300 friends and family in the audience. Spieth showed his hometown crowd his usual skill, filling the scorebook with 14 points, six rebounds and five assists.

“It was great to get to play in front of family and friends,” Spieth said. The familiar audience “really energized the team and me out there.”

While there were plenty of positives from Sunday’s competitive loss to the Mustangs, Bruno’s record speaks for itself. The Bears finish November 1-5 and play eight games before Ivy League play starts in mid-January.

The ship certainly needs to be righted, and Sunday could be the turning point, Massey said. “We just need to continue to work, so we can play complete games and end up on the winning side of things,” he said.

The Bears return home for a midweek contest against Central Connecticut State at the Pizzitola Center Wednesday.


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