Papa Dia's 17-point, 15-rebound performance extends SMU's season

The SMU Mustangs host the Jacksonville Dolphins in the second round of the Tournament (CIT) at Moody Coliseum on Saturday at 2 p.m.

The Dallas morning News

UNIVERSITY PARK — Talk about March Madness.

SMU men’s basketball team won a wild, 64-57 overtime thriller Wednesday night over Oral Roberts in the first round of the Tournament. The Mustangs kept their season alive, advancing to host Jacksonville at 2 p.m. Saturday in Moody Coliseum.

When the Mustangs’ eventful return to postseason play for the first time since 2000 had concluded, fifth-year coach Matt Doherty made sure to even thank the band at Moody Coliseum, which drew 1,090 spectators. CIT or no, the win was a long time coming.

SMU senior forward Papa Dia, who overcame a back injury, had 17 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks as the Mustangs (18-14) went to him time and again in key situations. It was uncertain up until game time if he’d be able to play. He spent the first four minutes of the game on the sidelines, riding a stationary bike.

“Before warmups he made it clear this wasn’t going to be our last game,” senior guard Mike Walker said. “That was pretty big considering he couldn’t walk around. I knew he was going to play.”

ORU’s Dominique Morrison led all scorers with 21 points and posed a constant threat on each possession. Robert Nyakundi scored 15 for SMU.

But it was SMU backup Justin Haynes who made two free throws in overtime to put SMU up by three with 28.5 seconds to play. ORU coach Scott Sutton chose Haynes to take the shots after Dia had to leave the court when his back injury flared up after being fouled on a defensive rebound.

In the next sequence, Haynes got a steal on the sideline and the ball went back to SMU.

The intense overtime – which included double technical fouls after a brief skirmish following a rebound – was preceded by a hairy end to regulation.

With the scored tied and the shot clock ticking down, about five seconds ahead of the game clock, SMU defended Oral Roberts tight enough to force a desperation attempt.

It hit the side of the rim. On the rebound, Dia tried to launch a shot from well beyond halfcourt even as an animated Doherty attempted to call a timeout. When the whistle blew, .5 seconds remained on the game clock. After much discussion, the officials ruled time had expired and sent the game to overtime.

Freshman guard Jeremiah Samarrippas had scored on an open jumper with about one minute left in regulation to tie the score and set up the heart-stopping end to regulation.

SMU ended a four-game losing skid, in which all the losses were by three points or less.

Bigger than that, the program got a taste for what the postseason is all about.

“I was happy for … all the people who invest financially and emotionally in this program,” Doherty said. “You want to bring that to this university.”

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