No. 21 SMU came out flat Thursday, trailing unranked Temple 33-25 at halftime.
Then the second half happened.
SMU outscored Temple 42-25 in the second half to earn a hard-fought 67-58 home win and improve to 22-5 (13-2) on the season.
What changed after halftime?
“We brought energy,” SMU center Cannen Cunningham said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “That’s really all it came down to. We came out flat in the first half with no energy, and the second half was the total opposite. I think Nic (Moore) led the way with it. He came out kind of slow. In the second half, he defended better, got some good looks and helped our team.”
Moore shot 6-of-12 from the floor and 3-of-7 from three-point range to finish with 18 points, four assist and three steals. Cunningham finished with 10 points off the bench, as he and forwards Ben Moore, Yanick Moreira and Markus Kennedy combined for 33 points on 10-of-19 shooting (52.6 percent).
“Our whole game plan was to attack them inside,” Cunningham said. “That was kind of indicative of our performance tonight.”
The game was tied at 52 before SMU went on a 7-0 run. The Mustangs trailed by as many as 10 points in the second half but were still able to snap Temple’s seven-game winning streak.
“It was crazy,” Cunningham said. “The energy in the gym was wild – probably the best we’ve had all year.”
Will Cummings, who scored 14 points, was the only player to reach double figures for Temple, but he needed 15 shots to do it. The Owls shot just 40.7 percent (22-of-54) from the field, 28.6 percent (6-of-21) from three-point range and 61.5 percent (8-of-13) from the foul line.
SMU dominated down low defensively, blocking nine shots. Cunningham, Kennedy, Moore and Moreira all had two apiece.
“They did a good job getting in the lane for that to even be possible, but that’s something coaches are talking about,” Cunningham said. “Our bigs need to do a better job protecting the rim. So I think today we pulled it out.”
SMU hit just 1-of-4 threes in the first half but 4-of-7 in the second.
“We don’t shoot a lot of threes,” Cunningham said, “but when we do, we want to make them count.”
The Mustangs have now won 20 of their last 22 games and have a one-game lead over Tulsa (18-7, 11-2) in the American and a 2.5-game lead over Temple (19-8, 10-4). Still, they know there’s still a lot of basketball to be played.
SMU plays its next two games on the road – at Memphis (16-10, 8-5) on Feb. 26 and at Connecticut (14-11, 7-6) on March 1 – before closing out the regular season at home against Tulsa on March 8.
“We got a target on our back,” Cunningham said, “so we know we can’t let up.”