Game Preview: SMU vs. Louisville

Come inside as we preview SMU's third conference game!

WHEN: Sunday, Jan. 12 at 12 p.m. CT

WHERE: Louisville, Kentucky (KFC Yum! Center)

RADIO/TV: CBS Sports Network, SMU - KAAM 770 AM

SERIES: Louisville leads 6-2. The Mustangs were defeated by Louisville in their last matchup 87-79 in Honolulu, Hawaii. SMU did upset the No. 2 ranked Cardinals in 1967, but the Mustangs have never beaten Louisville at home.

PONY TRENDS: SMU is coming off one of the biggest wins in school history and the first landmark win of the Larry Brown era. The Mustangs defeated UConn in their first game back at Moody Coliseum in front of a sellout crowd. The SMU defense held the Huskies' star point guard Shabazz Napier to just 12 points and the UConn team to a 36.7 percent shooting percentage from the field.

The backcourt for SMU played extremely well on both sides of the ball. Nic Moore led the team with a 20-point effort including a 15-point first half and Nick Russell came on strong towards the end of the game, cashing in clutch baskets to close UConn out.

SMU's field goal defense continues to stand near the top of the NCAA (1st in AAC, 2nd in NCAA) while their offense continues to shoot lights out-- especially from beyond the arc (41.5 percent.

OPPONENT STRENGTHS: Larry Brown and Rick Pitino are two of only five active Hall-of-Fame coaches in college basketball today. Needless to say, there will be brilliant basketball minds on both benches. Pitino's basketball team will be playing to take back their home court respect when SMU comes to town after they put up a disappointing performance against Memphis.

Louisville is solid in so many different facets of the game. They are led by veteran Russ Smith, who has an uncanny ability to score the basketball and can also be a great defender. Louisville's backcourt does a terrific job of taking away the basketball, ranking in the top five nationally in steals per game (10.1) and total steals (162). The Louisville press forces opponents into making mistakes with the basketball which Louisville capitalizes on consistently.

The Cardinals starting five all have the ability to score (all were in double-digits last game) and they also have players that can come in off the bench and have an impact. Luke Hancock, who many know from Louisville's championship win over Michigan, came off the bench against Memphis and led all scorers with 20 points.

Pitino's squad handles the basketball with care boasting a +7.3 turnover margin and have beaten opponents by an average of just over 20 points a game although against truly comparable competition they haven't fared nearly as well.

Matchup to Watch: SMU backcourt vs. Louisville Press – Pitino's full court basketball press isn't anything new. He has been doing it for years on end and yet it has still proved to be quite effective. With SMU being as turnover prone as they are, it will be interesting to see if they can be cool under pressure and make good decisions with the basketball. As stated before, the Cardinals are very much on the positive of the turnover margin , but the same can't be said for SMU who is currently at -1.0 for the season. Nic Moore is still a very capable ball-handler and it is a rare sight to see someone take the ball from his possession because he dibbles so low to the ground. But if he, Nick Russell, Ryan Manuel, Sterling Brown and Keith Frazier make ill-advised passes or dribbles, Louisville is the type of team that can go on runs and gain momentum quickly. Watching SMU break the press will be interesting.

Keys to the Game: SMU can't turn the ball over. If they do, it will be a long night and a very loud one as well. They have to play their game at their own pace. Louisville will bring lots of high-tempo intensity on defense to try and force mistakes but SMU can't fall into that trap. Larry Brown will undoubtedly have a strategy and formula for execution against Pitino's defense but SMU will have to be able to perform under pressure. They aren't at home anymore.

Louisville needs to make it a high tempo, energetic, get up and down the court style of basketball game and take advantage of SMU in transition. If Louisville forces SMU into making bad decisions, it will be an easy win for the Cardinals. SMU can hold its own when the game is slowed down to a half court style of play but if Louisville is constantly attacking and on the offensive, it will be hard for SMU to stop. If Louisville does make it a half-court game, they will have to shoot the way that Arkansas did in their win against the Ponies. And this isn't all that far-fetched because when Louisville gets hot… they can definitely knock em' down.

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