SMU(19-5, 8-3 AAC) begins its two-game road trip against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (10-14, 4-7 AAC). This will be just the second time in history the two teams have played against each other. The Mustangs defeated Rutgers 70-56 at home.
WHEN: Friday, Feb. 14 at 6 p.m. CT
WHERE: Piscataway, N.J. (Rutgers Athletic Centger)
RADIO/TV: American Digital Network, SMU - KAAM 770 AM
SERIES: SMU leads (1-0)
PONY TRENDS: Even the most optimistic failed to foresee the Mustangs having this much success in Larry Brown's second year on the Hilltop. The Mustangs are rolling. While winning eight out of their last nine, the Ponies put whippings on two more ranked opponents, beating both Memphis and Cincinnati handsomely.
The Mustangs have continued to dominate at home as Moody Coliseum has transformed into one of the least-desirable places to play for opponents.
It has been all hands on deck for the talented squad.
With Yanick Moreira still attempting to fight through injury, Brown has utilized his bench to its full potential. Cannen Cunningham, Ben Moore and Crandall Head all have contributed to the success of the program whether they are scoring, rebounding, making great passes or being great defenders.
The starters are also continuing to play well. Markus Kennedy is looking more and more like a first team all-conference player, Sterling Brown continues to be the hardest working competitor on the floor, and the backcourt keep the train moving.
OPPONENT STRENGTHS: Rutgers guard Myles Mack continues to be the heart of this Rutgers team but has recently benefitted from the emergence of forward Kadeem Jack.
Jack earned his way on to the AAC honor roll after helping the Scarlet Knights defeat USF in Tampa. Jack scored a career-high 31 points.
Rutgers has length and athleticism in the post and the Scarlet Knights do a good job of rebounding the basketball between Jack and Wally Judge. Rutgers is one of only a handful of teams to outrebound SMU all year.
Mack is undersized at guard but is deceptively strong and can shoot lights out. J.J. Moore is another guy who can shoot the three-ball for Rutgers. He scored 15 points against SMU in the first matchup.
Matchup to Watch: SMU defense vs. Rutgers Perimeter. SMU does not have too many glaring weaknesses other than turnovers and free throw shooting, which they have incrementally improved. But the way they play defense, i.e. protecting the basket at all costs, leaves them susceptible to three-pointers.
Kennedy, Williams and Cunningham should be able to hold their own down low, but it will be interesting to see if SMU will give up three-point opportunities. It certainly won't hurt the Mustangs if Rutgers can't make them but if the Knights get hot, it will definitely help them, especially with momentum playing at home.
Keys to the Game: SMU – Rebound and limit second chance opportunities. SMU has to pound the boards especially on defense. The more offensive rebounds Rutgers gets, the greater the chance SMU picks up fouls under the basket. The Mustangs need to assert their dominance down low.
Rutgers – Get off to a good start early. The Mustangs usually play well in the second half. Larry Brown has a knack for saying the right things and pressing he right buttons to get his team back on track after halftime. If Rutgers can build an early lead and channel the energy from its crowd in the second half, it will make it tough for SMU to come back. SMU hasn't been on the road since its loss in Tampa. Rutgers needs to use their home court advantage.
Game Preview: SMU vs. Rutgers
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