Game Preview: SMU vs. UCF

Come inside as we break down SMU's next conference game!

SMU(12-4, 2-2 AAC) travels to face the UCF Knights (9-6, 1-3 AAC) in each team's fifth conference matchup of the season.

WHEN: Saturday, Jan. 18 at 11 a.m. CT

WHERE: Orland, Florida (CFE Arena)


ANALYST: Scott Sanford

SERIES: UCF holds a 6-3 advantage going into the 10th matchup of the series and is 5-3 in regular season games against SMU. The Mustangs have never won in Orlando and will be looking for their first win against the Knights since 2010.

PONY TRENDS: SMU is coming off a dominating performance against another Sunshine State team, USF, winning 71-54. Markus Kennedy and Shawn Williams dominated, adding 18 points and 16 points respectively with Yanick Moreira recovering from an MCL injury. A quick 13-0 lead for SMU over USF set the tone for the rest of the game.

The Mustangs' great defense held the Bulls to just 32.1-percent shooting after coming into the game ranked fourth in Division I in field-goal defense. The Bulls did not score a field goal until 12:42 left in the first half and it was because of SMU's great team defense. SMU on the other hand, is first in the American in shooting percentage at 49.2 percent. SMU isn't just doing it with one or two players, it has eight players averaging over five points per game.

OPPONENT STRENGTHS: UCF has one of the best guards in the AAC with Isaiah Sykes. The senior from Michigan is averaging 16.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists and is the only AAC player to rank in the top 15 in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and field-goal percentage. SMU will definitely keep Sykes from going off like he did against Rutgers Wednesday when he dropped 29 points.

Forward Tristan Spurlock will be another player to watch for UCF, who is playing their first home game in two weeks, since Spurlock has the ability to finish strong and rebound well. Spurlock is averaging over 11 points and six rebounds per game. At the free-throw line, Spurlock also leads the Knights, shooting nearly 80 percent from the line.

Matchup to Watch: Isaiah Sykes vs. SMU's Guards- Sykes is a big guard at 6-foot-6 and that means that Nick Russell, Keith Frazier and Ryan Manuel will have to be at their best on defense all game. If Sykes can takeover the game like he did against Rutgers, even though it was in a losing effort, SMU could run into trouble.

Keys to the Game: Turnovers and team rebounding will be the keys as usual for the Mustangs. SMU cannot continue to turn the ball over like it has in the past. While SMU did do a solid job against USF in both categories, the team must show that it can shake the turnover problem on a more consistent basis as the team gets deeper into conference play. The Mustangs will have to do a great job rebounding with Spurlock and Sykes being more than capable rebounders, and the pair has a great ability to finish and draw contact.

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