SMU(13-4, 1-2 AAC) hosts Hofstra (6-11, 2-1 Colonial Athletic Association) in each team's final non-conference matchup of the regular season. The Mustangs were slated to take on The Pride in early December but the game was postponed to due to icy conditions in North Texas.
WHEN: Sunday, Jan. 19 at 6 p.m. CT
WHERE: Dallas, Texas (Moody Coliseum)
RADIO/TV: ESPN3, SMU - KAAM 770 AM
SERIES: SMU leads 1-0. The Mustangs beat Hofstra 73-47 last December in their first meeting ever.
ANALYSTS: Scott Sanford and Adam Grosbard
PONY TRENDS: The Mustangs have bounced back from their loss to Louisville with two straight conference victories against USF and UCF. SMU has gotten a major boost from its emerging star Markus Kennedy, who is playing with a new level of aggression and intensity.
With Yanick Moreira out and Nic Moore finally starting to cool down from what was a blazing hot shooting percentage to start the season, Kennedy's mindset has changed from being a good player executing his role to a playmaker looking to change the game. Larry Brown expressed his confidence in Kennedy and so far he has not disappointed.
SMU continues to be one of the best teams in the nation on defense as well. In their past two games they have given up a total of 100 points and their opponents have shot a combined 32-for-101 from the field good for 31.6 percent. With SMU playing this kind of defense without who Larry Brown characterizes as their ‘best interior defender,' they might be even better at locking teams down later on down the road.
OPPONENT STRENGTHS: Hofstra is coming off of a two-game win streak, where they defeated conference opponents Charleston and North Carolina Wilmington.
The Pride's best player is forward Zeke Upshaw who currently leads the CAA in scoring with 19.6 points per game. Upshaw, from Chicago, is a 6-foot-6, 215-pounder who can play guard as well. Upshaw actually attended Illinois State, the same school assistant coach Tim Jankovich and Nic Moore came to SMU from. Like Moore, Upshaw can really make it rain – especially from three-point land. He hit seven three-pointers in their last contest, tying the school record.
Rebounding is another area Hofstra has done a great job in throughout the season, boasting a +4.6 rebounding margin over its opponents. Comparatively, on the season SMU has 662 rebounds and averages 38.9 rebounds per game and Hofstra has 633 rebounds and average 37.2 rebounds per game.
Although shorter than SMU's big men, Hofstra's post players can get it done on the boards. 6-foot-8 forward/center Stephen Nwaukoni will come into the SMU game on a streak of three straight double digit rebound efforts.
Matchup to Watch: Zeke Upshaw vs. SMU Defense – With SMU playing at such a high level, there aren't too many things of great interest in this matchup other than Zeke Upshaw possibly putting the team on his back with a monster effort. But SMU has done an exceptional job so far of immobilizing their opponents' best player, (Louisville being the exception) and since Upshaw is no Russ Smith, Shabazz Napier or Sean Kilpatrick, it shouldn't be too tough of a task to handle but you never know. This is why they play the game.
Keys to the Game: SMU should be able to get out in front pretty quickly in this game, allowing some of their bench players more time to show what they are capable of.
Keith Frazier desperately needs to get back on track. He shot 0-for-2 again from behind the three-point line and 1-for-5 from the field. No disrespect to Hofstra, but this is a team that a former McDonalds All-American should be able to style on. Frazier needs give everybody in Moody Coliseum a big time performance showing why it was such a program changing moment when he decided to play his college basketball at SMU.
There have been flashes of his ability but so far, he has been far from consistent and maybe even the third best freshman on the team. Now is Keith's time to show why there are people out there thinking he will be an NBA scorer one day.
Hofstra: Play with nothing to lose. SMU beat the breaks off these guys last year, and it wouldn't be naïve to think the Mustang players don't remember that. There is a chance that they will come out looking to take it easy in preparation for their next opponent in Rutgers on Tuesday. Hofstra needs to take advantage of this. If they come out playing good, smart, fundamental basketball – rebounding well and shooting well, who knows what could happen. It isn't likely but anything is possible.
Game Preview: SMU vs. Hofstra
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