SMU (16-4, 5-2 AAC) travels to face the USF Bulls (10-10, 1-6 AAC) in each team's eighth conference matchup of the season. SMU is looking to extend its winning streak to six games while USF hopes to halt the four game losing streak SMU started in their first matchup.
WHEN: Tuesday, Jan. 28 at 6 p.m. CT
WHERE: Tampa, FL (Sun Dome)
RADIO/TV: ESPNews, SMU - KAAM 770 AM
ANALYST: EJ Holland
SERIES: SMU 3-2. The Mustangs broke the 2-2 series tie with a dominant 71-54 victory over the Bulls in Moody Coliseum on Jan. 15.
PONY TRENDS: SMU's ability to consistently win ball games has kept them active on the NCAA tournament radar and just outside of the top-25. SMU has relied on stellar defense and rebounding this season and that has carried them leaps and bounds further than where they were at this point last year.
But for the first time in a number of outings, the Mustangs faced serious adversity in their game against Houston-- trailing 31-25 at halftime. SMU had a multitude of early fouls as well as turnovers in the first half and the Cougars simply out played them. SMU also gave Houston a number of minimally contested three-point opportunities which they did a great job of turning into points.
The ship was righted in the second half, however, as Nic Moore had the team's most sensational shooting performance all year. Moore went 7-for-9 from the field in the second half and finished with a game-high 28 points.
Sophomore Markus Kennedy also contributed with another double-double while also holding TaShawn Thomas at bay on the other side of the floor.
OPPONENT STRENGTHS: The guy who most people consider to be USF's best player - forward Victor Rudd Jr.. has failed to be the team's leading scorer in any of their past four contests. The 6-foot-9, 235-pounds has not been a major factor since before SMU held him to five points in their first encounter. He should be playing with something to prove on Tuesday.
USF is still missing starting point guard Anthony Collins, who has missed the last nine games and his lack of presence has shown. The Bulls do have talent hidden within their roster but their lack of experience and chemistry has been a problem along with the fact that they played the best four teams in the conference consecutively.
Martino Brock is coming off of a big 17-point game against Memphis and has shown the ability to score but needs to be more consistent.
Down low, the Bulls were no match for SMU in the first game but this time they should be more prepared. John Egbunu can block shots and Chris Perry is a big body who can make an impact but needs to be more confident and assertive.
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. But as mentioned, SMU won this matchup the first time around.
Keys to the Game: SMU needs to get the ball in the hands of Markus Kennedy just like they've been doing. Kennedy has shown time and time again that he has the skillset to be a top player in the conference. Kennedy needs to stay out of foul trouble and at the basket making plays. He is a walking double-double so SMU needs to feed the ball to the ‘dancing bear.'
USF needs to attack, attack, attack. Rudd, Allen, Perry and Brock all need to attack the interior of the SMU defense. That's not an easy task, but USF needs to penetrate early and often if its going to have a chance. 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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