Game Preview: SMU vs. East Carolina

Billy previews SMU's matchup in the AAC tournament tomorrow at 11 a.m. CT against ECU!

WHEN: Friday, March 12 at 11 a.m. CT
WHERE: XL Center (Hartford, Conn.)
TV/RADIO: ESPN2/KAAM 770 AM
SERIES: SMU leads the series against East Carolina 6-4.
LAST MEETING: SMU beat ECU 77-54 in Moody Coliseum on Jan. 17.

PONY TRENDS

SMU is coming off their regular season AAC title clinching win over Tulsa in Moody on Sunday and earned the No. 1 seed in the AAC tournament with the win. SMU got big performances down the stretch from Markus Kennedy and Cannen Cunningham before Cunningham fouled out to grind out the win. SMU was nearly beaten by a one-man show of James Woodard, who had 10 three-pointers to finish with 30 points. SMU was able to eliminate some sloppy mistakes from the first half to bounce back from the loss to Connecticut on the road. Nic Moore has not shot the ball well the last two games, shooting 23 percent and 27 percent in SMU’s last two games, but was named the AAC Player of the Year today.

OPPONENT STRENGTHS

ECU raced out to a lead over UCF today, but wasn’t able to hold off a UCF rally and the Knights forced overtime. The Pirates were able to get the win in the 8/9 matchup of the AAC tournament with their play in OT, 81-80. B.J. Tyson contributed 19 points and five assists off the bench in the win. On the other hand, forward Mike Zangari struggled off the bench with foul trouble and was a non-factor, fouling out with six minutes left. He’ll have his hands full with SMU’s bigs. Zangari doesn’t have the strength to battle with SMU’s bigs so ECU will have to play better team defense down low.

Three Players to Watch

Marshall Gullmette: ECU’s second-leading scorer in their win in the first round with 18 points and six rebounds also fouled out, but had a good game against a big UCF front court.

Michel-Ofik Nzege: ECU’s other big man tallied 13 points and seven rebounds in the win for the Pirates. Gullmette is a much more prototypical big man at 6-10, but Nzege proved today he’ll need to be accounted for.

B.J. Tyson: While Tyson is now coming off the bench, he shot better than 50 percent from the field today and got to the foul line for eight shots, something SMU can’t be baited into tomorrow.

MATCHUP TO WATCH

SMU’s backcourt vs. ECU’s backcourt. ECU let UCF stick around in their matchup because of the Knights’ ability to shoot the three-ball. SMU has been able to have success in that department with Sterling Brown and Nic Moore having great years beyond the arc percentage wise. If ECU doesn’t rotate and get back, SMU will be able to find spot-up shooters and will race away from the Pirates. In that same respect, SMU has to get back on defense because ECU is capable of driving and distributing to its shooters around the perimeter.

KEYS TO THE GAME

Getting Nic Moore back into a groove will be key for SMU as it heads deeper into the tournament assuming the team can get a win over ECU. Moore can distribute and run the team like he has all season, but SMU is at its best when Moore is a threat to make a three with a defender in his face. If Moore’s sharing and taking care of the ball and adding some scoring as well, SMU’s bigs will have much more room to work and take over. ECU is an athletic squad that has the length to defend SMU in the backcourt, but Moore getting going will be key to allowing the frontcourt to dominate.


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