Despite postseason sanctions, SMU Mustangs fans have a lot to be excited about this season. They have three extremely talented freshmen in Shake Milton, Jarrey Foster and Sedrick Barefield. Jordan Tolbert and Semi Ojeleye are two of the most exciting transfers in college basketball. Larry Brown’s inaugural recruiting class of Ben Moore, Sterling Brown and Keith Frazier are growing into leaders in the locker room in their junior seasons. Reigning AAC Sixth Man of the Year Markus Kennedy has returned for another season.
However, with so much to celebrate for SMU, it’s become clear early on that this Mustangs team still revolves around its point guard: reigning AAC Player of the Year Nic Moore.
In no game this season was Moore’s ability more evident than in SMU’s mid-week win against arch rival TCU. TCU surprised the undefeated Mustangs early, jumping out to a 22-10 lead midway through the first half on some incredibly accurate three-point shooting. The Mustangs battled back in the final minutes of the first half, and were able to take a 40-37 lead into halftime.
While SMU looked to be in control at halftime, the Frogs simply refused to go away. With just over five minutes left in the second half, TCU held a 66-63 lead over their cross-Metroplex rivals. That’s when Moore took over.
With his team down late in the game, Moore served as the catalyst for yet another SMU victory. He hit four out of the final five Mustangs shots, including a game-tying three pointer and looked virtually unguardable down the stretch. He finished the game with 26 points on 9-of-19 shooting, including an incredible 5-of-9 from long range. TCU had no answer for Moore in the latter stages of the game, as the Mustangs’ senior point guard showed why he is ready to defend his Player of the Year award from last season.
Moore’s performance against TCU is even more amazing considering how little the point guard has practiced since the season began. Moore fractured his pinky finger in the Mustangs’ home opener against Sam Houston State, and has been limited in practice ever since, with a splint around his finger as it heals. On Wednesday against TCU, the splint came off.
According to the point guard, he “was feeling pretty good, so [he] told the trainer to leave it off.” If Moore’s finger is healthy, that’s great news for the Mustangs’ faithful.
Even associate head coach Tim Jankovich was impressed by Moore’s play in the second half, saying, “If he’s going to play like that, I would never practice him.”
Jankovich coached Moore at Illinois State during the point guard’s freshman season, so for him to be in such good spirits following a vintage Nic Moore performance should certainly reflect the optimism among the SMU fan base regarding their point guard’s health. Jankovich has relied on Shake Milton to shoulder a lot of the point guard duties with the injury to Moore limiting his minutes. Returning to full strength is extremely important to SMU’s team as it heads into the tougher half of its non-conference schedule.
Mustang fans have come to expect these game-changing performances from Moore, as he’s provided them in spades during his three years with SMU. But after a slow start to the season, it’s nice to see Moore return to full strength.
The Mustangs have demonstrated an incredible ability to distribute the ball thus far this season, but with Moore as a bona fide star for SMU, the Mustangs could challenge some of the best teams in the country.