|9:00 ET, Feb 15, 2017
Moody Coliseum, Dallas, Texas Attendance: 6,850
No. 19 SMU rallies to defeat Tulane
(TSX / STATS) -- DALLAS -- SMU coach Tim Jankovich was beginning to wonder if his team would ever have a game when it came out flat.
He didn't have to wonder any more when SMU found itself trailing Tulane by 15 points at halftime Wednesday.
The 19th-ranked Mustangs roared back in the second half to avert an upset, beating the Green wave 80-75 to remain in first place in the American Athletic Conference.
"Tonight maybe was the first time that they weren't at that magic level," said Jankovich, whose team won for the 19th time in the past 20 games.
SMU (23-4, 13-1 AAC) went on a 16-2 run in the second half to reclaim the lead at 58-56 with 9:43 remaining. The Mustangs' lead grew to nine 77-68 before they closed out the win.
Guard Jarrey Foster scored 19 and forward Semi Ojeleye, who missed his first 10 shots, had 18 for SMU. Forward Ben Moore added 15 points and 13 rebounds for the Mustangs, who won their ninth game in a row.
Tulane (4-21, 1-12) saw its upset bid evaporate despite 23 points from guard Cameron Reynolds and 18 from guard Malik Morgan. Tulane took its ninth straight loss and 14th in the past 15 games.
Jankovich was concerned about his team having a letdown after a 60-51 win over then-No. 11 Cincinnati on Sunday. That was a breakthrough win in terms of national attention this season.
"A lot has gone on here lately, a lot of attention," Jankovich said. "Human nature took over, and we were obviously not in the perfect, magic level of competition in the first half.
"But I'm proud of them. We just had to try to win the second half on grit, really, and just will it. Once again, we did."
SMU committed nine turnovers in the first half while Tulane took a 10-point lead midway through the period and continued to build on it.
Rather than berate his team at halftime, Jankovich said he stressed how SMU could climb its way out of the hole it was in.
"It wasn't really about X's and O's, it was more about effort," Moore said. "We knew we had to pick up the effort because they were outplaying us."
Tulane's upset bid was slowed significantly when Tulane center Ryan Smith picked up his fourth foul just as SMU posted its first lead with nearly 10 minutes left.
"We knew they'd come back out in the second half and come after us hard," Green Wave coach Mike Dunleavy said. "We took that first punch, and we took it back up to 14 points. We responded well to it."
However, after Tulane survived SMU's initial surge to hold a 52-38 lead, the Mustangs' Ojeleye and Foster heated up.
"They're so solid," Dunleavy said of SMU. "There's not anybody that gives you a day off. Most teams you play, we're going to say we're going to help off of this guy and make this guy beat us. They don't really have that weak link."
Tulane shot 52 percent from the field and 50 percent (7 of 14) from 3-point range to post a 42-27 lead at halftime.
The score was 15-15 with 13:21 left in the first half when Tulane went on a 10-0 run to break open the game. The run started with a 3-pointer by Reynolds, who scored 15 in the half.
Tulane's fast start was in response to a 91-62 collapse against Houston in its previous game.
"We really let Coach down when we played U of H," Reynolds said. So we wanted to come out and show him we could follow the game plan and be focused. I think we did a good job of that but just had a couple of lapses that cost us the game."
Meanwhile, SMU was just 1 of 10 from 3-point range in the first half and struggled to 37.5 percent from the field before the break.
Ojeleye, who earned conference Player of the Week honors just two days earlier, was 0 of 9 from the field in the first half. He wound up 4 of 17.
Overall, SMU shot 46.9 percent to Tulane's 43.5 percent.
NOTES: Tulane was facing its fourth ranked opponent this season. The Green Wave lost to No. 6 North Carolina 95-75, No. 23 Cincinnati 92-56 and No. 20 Cincinnati 78-61. ... Tulane's last win over SMU came on Feb. 16, 2013, when both teams were members of Conference USA. ... SMU is ranked first in the AAC in scoring defense (58.2 points per game), rebounding margin (plus-10.9) and offensive rebounds per game (12.8).
Updated February 16, 2017