Game Preview: SMU vs. Houston

SMU takes on Houston in their first AAC Tournament matchup. We preview the game inside!

SMU (23-8, 12-6 American, #3-seed) takes on Houston (16-15, 8-10 American, #6-seed) for the third and final time this season in the second round of the inaugural AAC tournament.

WHEN: Thursday, March 13 at 12 p.m. CT

WHERE: Memphis, Tenn. (FedEx Forum)


SERIES: Houston Leads (46-27)

PONY TRENDS: SMU could not duplicate their stellar shooting performance the second time around as Memphis defeated them 67-58 in the last game of the season. The Mustangs come into the tournament having lost consecutive games for the first time this season.

In the Memphis game SMU had a 12-to-17 assist to turnover ratio, were outrebounded 38-33 and outshot 46.4 percent to 40 percent.

Very similarly to their matchup vs. Louisville, SMU had loads of trouble attempting to stop Memphis' best player Joe Jackson in the second half, and his production was instrumental in burying the mustangs.

Although they left both Moody Coliseum and Hofheinz Pavillion with wins over the Cougars, that is not to say that SMU didn't struggle. Outside of Louisville, Houston proved to be the Mustangs' toughest test at home squeaking out a narrow 68-64 victory.

With SMU dropping from 18th in the nation to 25th, and sitting on an RPI ranking of 44, this is a critical game for SMU. Should they lose, they will be seeded near the bottom of whatever region they are selected to on Sunday.

OPPONENT STRENGTHS: Houston played well against SMU in the first half of both games. They can really get hot from the three point line if they find their rhythm. TaShawn Thomas made the All-AAC 2nd Team and can be a headache down on the blocks.

Danuel House is a consistent threat to score as well for the Cougars averaging just under 14 points a game. House has shot 53 percent from three point range against the Mustangs this year and has scored a combined 37 points (15 & 22) in their two contests.

At 6-foot-8 and 6-foot-7 respectively, Thomas and House can cause problems for SMU on both sides of the floor; one having sheer size and strength and the other possessing length and athleticism.

L.J. Rose is another impactful player at the guard position who can facilitate as well as score and Jherrod Stiggers is a three point specialist who isn't shy about shooting from distance.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Markus Kennedy vs. Tashawn Thomas – For some reason Markus Kennedy has not looked like the unstoppable force he did when SMU was at their best this season. Montrezl Harrell made Kennedy look somewhat irrelevant and although the stat sheet may not indicate it, Shaq Goodwin outplayed, and out hustled him the second time around. Maybe he isn't performing at the same level due to decreased minutes now that Moreira is finally back and Cunningham is giving quality minutes but whatever the case may be, SMU needs Kennedy to get back to being aggressive. Kennedy and Thomas are both very skilled players who make strong and decisive moves without giving away the ability to finish with great touch. This should be a good battle on the boards.

KEYS TO THE GAME: SMU needs to defend the three point shot and dominate the defensive glass. When Houston jacks up threes SMU can't let Thomas, House, Richardson and Knowles get the ball back with second chance opportunities. Boxing out is a simple fundamental of the game that Larry Brown will preach to death. There is no reason why Houston should have 13 offensive rebounds with the size and athleticism SMU has on the floor. The Cougars need to pound the ball on the inside allowing Tashawn Thomas to go to work. Another thing they should do is draw fouls from Kennedy and Moore. SMU needs quality contribution from both of their transfers and when both of them are on their game they give opponents long bus rides back home. But if their sitting on the bench, SMU's star players are of no use.

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