DALLAS — A 3-point barrage in the second half nearly delivered the University of Central Bears an upset of the Southern Methodist Mustangs on Sunday afternoon.
The Bears made eight 3-pointers in the second half, including four in the first three minutes, to erase a five-point halftime deficit but the home team eventually held on for a 76-72 victory before of 1,247 at Moody Coliseum.
The Bears (2-3) trailed 37-32 at the half but nailed their first four threes of the second half to take a four-point lead at 44-40. The Bears went on to make four more and held leads several more times, the last lead with 3:07 remaining when senior guard Mike Pouncy hit a jumper, good for a 70-69 lead.
The Mustangs (4-3) then held off the Bears at the free-throw line, making 11 of 14 in the second half and 17 of 20 (85 percent) for the game
The Bears made a season-high 12 of 26 from beyond the arc, with senior guard Mike Pouncy and junior guard Deway Clayborn hitting three each. Senior TK Smith came off the bench and made two big 3s in the second half, while junior guard Mark Rutledge added two more.
"I think we had a great shot at winning this game, but we just had some miscues here and there," UCA coach Corliss Williamson said. "TK has been struggling with his shot this year and we talked to him as a staff about continuing to shoot the ball when he’s open. He came in there in the second half and really lit it up for us. He and Dewan gave us the momentum we needed to be in this game."
While the Bears were outshooting the Mustangs from the perimeter, SMU was dominating inside. The Mustangs outscored the Bears 38-22 in the paint, with center Papa Dia and forward Robert Kyakundi sharing scoring honors at 24 points each. Dia added a game-high 10 rebounds.
"We haven’t shot the 3 well this year so we were really excited and happy about how we shot it tonight," Williamson said. "TK, along with some of the other guards, came on and made some shots. Mark Rutledge, who has been struggling a little, too, came out and knocked down two threes. And Dewan and Mike Pouncy had three apiece."
The Mustangs entered as one of the top three-point shooting teams in the nation, with 49 in just five games. The Bears held them to 5 of 16 (31 percent).
"That was definitely something we were looking at," Williamson said. "They were only 1 of 7 in the first half from the 3-point line, so we were very pleased with the guys following the scouting report. In the second half, they (the Mustangs) did hit a few, but not as many as they were capable of hitting.’
The light-rebounding Mustangs did win that battle 32-24.
"It was surprising to us. You look at their stats, they hardly rebound the ball at all," Williamson said. "Watching them on film, we felt like we could get some offensive rebounds on them. We did that, but we weren’t able to keep them off the glass, and that hurt us.
"They kind of tricked us tonight. We were playing for the three and they were able to score the ball inside."
Clayborn led the Bears with 15 points, while Pouncy added 12 and Rutledge 11. Rutledge led the Bears with five rebounds, while Clayborn had a team-high 4 assists.
UCA plays at Oklahoma State at 7 p.m. Wednesday.