DALLAS, Texas – SMU erased a halftime deficit with a 20-5 run out of the break and pulled away for a 72-44 win over Gardner-Webb Friday night in the first round of the 2016 2K Classic.
The Runnin' Bulldogs (0-1) closed the first half on a 7-0 run, taking its first lead of the game on Eric Jamison's long two-pointer with 1:21 left in the half. Gardner-Webb got three stops in the final minute to hold a 29-28 lead at intermission.
SMU's second-half run started quickly, with three-pointers from Shake Milton and Duke transfer Semi Ojeleye – and another long jumper from Milton forcing a Gardner-Webb timeout with 17:06 to play. The Mustangs' lead grew to 37-28 before GWU answered with a LaQuincy Rideau trey with 15:23 on the clock.
The Runnin' Bulldogs could not find a groove offensively against SMU – the third-rated team in the American Athletic Conference this preseason. The Mustangs' length on the perimeter, with six guards standing 6-5 or taller, gave Gardner-Webb great difficulty throughout the game.
SMU shot 58.6 percent in the second half, steadily pulling away for a comfortable win.
Gardner-Webb shot just 30.6 percent for the game (15-of-49), which included a very cold performance in the second half (22.7 percent / 5-of-22).
Tyrell Nelson led the Runnin' Bulldogs, scoring all 13 of his points in the first half. The Charlotte, N.C., senior added four rebounds and made 5-of-8 shots on the night.
David Efianayi came off the bench with a spark, scoring 10 points on 3-of-6 shooting. He added a block and steal in 21 minutes. Rideau had nine points and five steals in his second career start at point guard.
Newcomer Liam O'Reilly, who played junior college basketball just 30 minutes away at Collin College, finished with six points on a pair of three-pointers. Jamison, a redshirt freshman, added five points off the bench.
SMU shot 45.3 percent for the game, heating up significantly in the second half – both in close and from long range. The Mustangs got 26 points and 14 rebounds from Ojeleye in his first game since coming over from Durham, N.C., and put four players in double figures.
Gardner-Webb will play its second game of the 2K Classic on Monday night, traveling to face Pittsburgh at 7:00 pm. SMU will host Eastern Michigan on Sunday afternoon.