Game Preview: SMU vs. Houston

Come inside as we preview SMU's next basketball game!

SMU (15-4, 4-2 AAC) travels to play Houston (11-8, 3-3 AAC) at Hofheinz Pavilion in each team's sixth conference game of the season. The Mustangs are riding a four-game winning streak and are looking to improve to 6-4 away from Moody Coliseum this season.

WHEN: Sunday, Jan. 26 at 2 p.m. CT

WHERE: Houston, Texas (Hofheinz Pavilion)


SERIES: 25-46, including two losses to Houston last season PONY TRENDS: SMU faced the challenge of playing four games in seven days after its loss to Louisville, but the Mustangs were more than prepared, winning four straight against USF, UCF, Hofstra and Rutgers, without ever being really threatened in any of the games.

What's even more impressive is that SMU has done all of this without starting center Yanick Moreira, who is still recovering from an MCL sprain. In his place, SMU's other bigs have played huge. In the five games since Moreira went down, Shawn Williams has averaged 6.4 points, Markus Kennedy has averaged 15, Cannen Cunningham 6.8 and Ben Moore 8.2.

Meanwhile, defensively, the Mustangs have been stellar. Since the Louisville loss, SMU has limited opponents to 56 points or less.

Now, after a day off from practice on Wednesday and a few extra days to work on their game plan, the Mustangs will face a tough challenge.

OPPONENT STRENGTHS: First and foremost, Houston is very formidable home team. Hofheinz Pavilion can really get rocking when the team is playing well and earlier this season that advantage resulted in a victory over then-ranked Connecticut.

While Houston is not a defensive team of the same caliber as SMU, the Cougars specialize in defending the paint. The team averages 6.3 blocks per game, led by junior forward TaShawn Thomas, who swats away 3.3 shots per game.

Thomas is a real stud for Houston. He leads the team both in scoring (16.5 points per game) and rebounding (8.6 boards per game).

And the Cougars are now at full strength thanks to the return of Danuel House and L.J. Rose, who missed a chunk of the season due to injury.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: TaShawn Thomas vs. Markus Kennedy. These two will battle all game in the paint. They are both roughly the same size (6-foot-8 or 6-foot--9 and 240-pounds) and whoever gets the advantage should win the game for their team.

There are two weaknesses in Thomas's game that Kennedy should try to exploit-- Thomas leads the Cougars in turnovers and is an abysmal free-throw shooter (55.6 percent on the season). If the Mustangs force Thomas into mistakes or take him out of the game by sending him to the line, they should be alright.

KEYS TO THE GAME: This seems like a no-brainer, but the Mustangs need to play solid defense on Sunday and not allow any runs that will energize the Houston crowd. As dominant as SMU has been at home this season, they have been fairly average on the road or at neutral sites and can't let the crowd affect the game.

Likewise, for Houston to win the game they need to get off to a hot start make their fans a factor. Houston is not better than SMU but if they can rattle the Ponies with their energy and noise right from the start, it could be a long game for the Mustangs.

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