SMU(11-4, 1-2 AAC) hosts the USF Bulls (10-6, 1-2 AAC) in each team's fourth conference matchup of the season. Both the Bulls and the Mustangs are looking to improve their conference record to .500.
WHEN: Wednesday, Jan. 15 at 6 p.m. CT
WHERE: Dallas, Texas (Moody Coliseum)
RADIO/TV: ESPNU, SMU - KAAM 770 AM
ANALYSTS: Beionny Mickles and Omar Majzoub
SERIES: Tied 2-2. The Mustangs took the first two games of the series in 1986 and 1987, but the two most recent contests between the two were wins by South Florida in 2008 and 2009.
PONY TRENDS: Even playing as reckless as they did vs. Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals, the SMU basketball team still has people excited about how good they can actually be. With 16 turnovers, a key starter out of the lineup and their best player having his worst game of the season, SMU still played the 12th ranked team in the country pretty darn closely. The Mustangs did everything they could to lose vs. Louisville and squandered the opportunity to defeat what would have been their second ranked opponent this season.
SMU continued its bad habits of giving away precious possessions and had another day of poor shooting from the free throw line. SMU's defense was also quite suspect as they left Louisville players with a number of minimally contested shot opportunities-- some of which they missed.
Fortunately for SMU, three of its next four contests will be at home, where they enjoyed the benefits of a rejuvenated and engaged home fan base in their first matchup vs. UConn. The Mustangs will hope for the same home court advantage vs. South Florida.
OPPONENT STRENGTHS: USF has a stable of young players who are continuing to get better. Their best player is forward Victor Rudd Jr. who can score and rebound the basketball with some of the best players in the conference. Rudd leads his team in both categories and at 6-foot-9, 235-pounds could be a destructive force against anybody. The senior is approaching 1,000 points for his career.
USF has really missed its starting point guard Anthony Collins, who has missed the last five games. But Cory Allen Jr. and Martino Brock have done a decent job of handling the backcourt. Allen is small but has a high motor and can score the basketball. Allen, who averages the most minutes on the team, also leads the team in assists.
Down low, the Bulls have another good young player who has stepped it up so far in conference play. Nigerian freshman John Egbunu is averaging a double-double in his first three conference games (12.7 ppg, 11.3 rpg) and his last five games total. He, along with Rudd and Chris Perry will attempt to outman the Mustangs in the paint much like they did to Temple, putting up 50 points inside. The Bulls are 6-1 when outrebounding their opponent.
Matchup to Watch: Victor Rudd Jr. vs. SMU Defense. This should be one of the more interesting matchups to watch because Rudd Jr. can do it all. He can take the ball up the court if he needs to, he can drive to the basket, he can shoot from long range and he can finish with authority (Google his Geico Play of the Year Nomination). He's a veteran who isn't afraid to shoot the basketball in clutch situations and he's big enough to cause a serious matchup problem with SMU. It will be interesting to see how Larry Brown decides to defend him if he comes out scoring early.
Keys to the Game: SMU needs to get the ball in the hands of its playmakers. Markus Kennedy has shown time and time again that he has the skillset to be a top player in the conference, but he hasn't gotten the amount of touches he should especially with Moreira out. Kennedy needs to stay out of foul trouble and at the basket making plays. He could easily be a 14 and 9 guy, but he has to be aggressively looking to score the basketball and the guards need to get it to him. Nic Moore just had a bad game, everybody has them. He needs to find his rhythm and get back to stroking. Keith Frazier is under so much pressure to make plays in the short amount of time he's in the game that he ends up doing too much. He needs to tone it down and play within himself because he might need to make a big shot or two for SMU.
USF needs to Attack, Attack, Attack. Rudd, Allen, Perry and Brock all need to attack the interior of the SMU defense. Russ Smith had SMU so worried about his ability to slash to the basket that they left some of his teammates wide open. USF needs to penetrate early and often. The Bulls get to the free throw line better than any team in the conference other than Louisville ,and it seems that SMU has yet to find out how to stay away from foul trouble. USF needs to get to the inside and not settle for low percentage shots.
Game Preview: SMU vs. South Florida
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