SMU tops UNLV; PG Kendric Davis shines in debut
Kendric Davis had a debut to remember for SMU on Saturday after being cleared to play by the NCAA a day before.
Saturday was the debut of Kendric Davis, SMU's transfer guard who was cleared by the NCAA on Friday. There's a reason why the Mustangs waited almost impatiently for that waiver.
As a true point guard, Davis gives SMU a different dynamic regarding game management and running the offense. He also can score and rebounded exceptionally well Saturday for a 5-11 guard.
UNLV found out Davis' worth, and the Runnin' Rebels also saw why SMU entered as an undefeated team. The Mustangs left the Thomas & Mack Center with a 72-68 victory SMU, with the win, improved to 5-0 for the first time since the 2015-16 season, when the Mustangs won 18 in a row.
UNLV slipped to 2-5 and has lost five of its last six games.
In his first game, Davis finished with a game-high 21 points and nine rebounds. He had the same number of rebounds as 6-11 UNLV forward Cheikh Mbacke Diong.
Prior to tipoff, SMU coach Tim Jankovich spoke about the excitement of having Davis available the day before playing in Las Vegas.
"We've been fighting this thing for four months, at least four months, with a lot of stress involved and a lot of angst," Jankovich said. "When it finally came through and we get the great news, it was awesome."
Davis provided additional firepower to a solid group that has played well and found multiple ways to win. On Saturday, the Mustangs shot 50% (26 of 52) from the field and made all 12 of their free throw attempts.
With the teams tied at 18 with less than nine minutes in the first half, SMU went on a 16-3 run, capped by a Feron Hunt dunk, to take a 13-point lead. The Mustangs led, 38-28, at the halftime break.
UNLV rallied in the second half, trimming SMU's double-digit lead to two with a little more than five minutes left to play. But with every UNLV rally, SMU found an answer.
"Road wins do not come easy. I'm very proud of our guys," Jankovich said during the post-game interview. "They didn't celebrate much. They felt they should have won by far more, and that's good when your guys start thinking that."
Fundamental basketball played in SMU's favor, as the team connected made its free throws and grabbed defensive rebounds. While the Mustangs were outrebounded, 36-27, for the game, they had 22 defensive rebounds, one more than UNLV.
Three SMU players finished with double figures in scoring. Hunt had 17 points, while Isiaha Mike had 14 points and made 3 of 4 from the 3-point line. Davis, to go along with his scoring and rebounding, added four assists.
Tyson Jolly, who entered as SMU's leading scorer, only had seven points, but he added a game-high seven assists and also had four rebounds. Bryce Hamilton led UNLV with 18 points.
SMU returns to action Wednesday with a home matchup against Hartford. It will be the first game of a four-game home stand for the Mustangs. Tipoff for Wednesday's game is set for 6 p.m.