GAME NOTES: The SMU Mustangs and Wagner Seahawks will open up the 46th annual
Cable Car Classic when they clash in the first round at the Leavy Center.
The winner of this game will play either Santa Clara or Alcorn State in the
Larry Brown's Mustangs started out their three-game road trip to begin
December with a 73-47 win over Hofstra, but it then lost two in a row to Rhode
Island (72-50) and Utah (62-53) to drop to 8-3 this season. SMU's loss to Utah
came 20 days after it defeated the Utes by seven points at home. The Mustangs
have averaged just 51.5 points per game on 41.2 percent shooting from the
floor during their current two-game losing streak.
Wagner is back to defend its title after winning the nation's oldest in-season
tournament a season ago. Bashir Mason's Seahawks rattled off wins over Hofstra
(52-44) and Coppin State (77-65) to improve to a 4-4 record. Wagner has the
lowest scoring offense in the Northeast Conference with only 58.2 points per
game, but it also is allowing a league-low 60.5 ppg to its opposition.
This will be the first-ever meeting between these schools on the hardwood.
SMU struggled on the offensive end in its second bout with the Utes,
connecting on only 39.6 percent of its field goal attempts. The Mustangs were
also outrebounded 36-27 and outscored 17-7 at the free throw line. Nick
Russell tried shooting himself out of a slump, but finished 6-of-21 from the
floor for 13 points. Cannen Cunningham had a decent 12-point, eight-rebound
performance, but Jalen Jones was held to nine points. Jones leads the team
with 15 points and 8.1 rebounds per contest and Russell is also a threat from
the backcourt with 14.2 points and 4.5 assist per outing.
The Seahawks overcame a seven-point second-half deficit their last time out
and came up with a clutch defensive play in the closing seconds of regulation,
not allowing Coppin State to attempt a shot to force an overtime. Wagner ran
away with the game in overtime and senior Jonathon Williams finished the game
with a career-high 33 points and 17 rebounds, nine of which were offensive.
Marcus Burton provided a spark off the bench with 17 points and Kenneth Ortiz
handed out eight assists. Williams is the only player scoring in double-
figures for the Seahawks with 17.5 points to go along with 7.9 boards per
game. Ortiz is producing just under 10 per game and Burton is the team's best
three-point threat with 11 made triples in eight games.
SMU is going to need to find its offensive touch to win this one as the
Seahawks know how to control the tempo. The Mustangs will be able to end their
losing skid if they put the pressure on early, which means Russell and Jones
cannot afford cold starts. Williams will have to repeat his tremendous
performance to give Wagner a shot at retaining its tournament championship for