When: Wednesday, December 23 at 9:30 pm CT
Where: Orleans Arena (Las Vegas, Nevada)
In Larry Brown first game back from a nine-game suspension, the Mustangs picked up their 10th win of the year thanks to 25 points from Nic Moore and 19 points and 10 rebounds from Keith Frazier. Even with Markus Kennedy being a non-factor in his first game back since spraining his ankle, senior forward Jordan Tolbert continued to dominate down low, adding 18 points and 10 rebounds of his own. The Mustangs continued their balanced scoring and showed fight, going on an 11-1 run, when Kent State cut the deficit to just three points early in the first half. SMU once again shared the ball well, despite 14 turnovers, picking up 17 assists on their 29 shots made.
The Buffaloes’ lone loss was to a top-10 Iowa team, and while they’ve had a somewhat easy out-of-conference schedule, they’re still a talented team. Especially with the Mustangs’ lack of depth up front, the Buffaloes will likely look to mix and match with Josh Scott down low and George King out on the perimeter. Scott has the ability to rebound on both ends of the floor, while King is shooting a stellar 51-percent from the three-point line this year. As a team, the Buffaloes are shooting over 40-percent from beyond the arc, so that’s something they’ll look to take advantage of. They’re also a very deep team with nine players averaging at least 15 minutes a game.
Three Players to Watch
F Josh Scott: Scott is a force down low for the Buffaloes. His 19 points and nine boards a game easily make him the most talented player on their roster, and even if he has a rough night offensively, he still brings it at the other end of the court. Scott can do it for them on the offensive and defensive ends, and his height and athleticism allow him to block shots consistently and score in traffic.
G George King: King is the best shooter the Buffaloes have. The redshirt sophomore hits 51-percent of his shots from three-point range, but even from inside the arc he’s making more than half (50.9 percent) of his shots. At 6-foot-6, King is also a bigger guard, that matches up well on defense and will likely be tasked with slowing SMU’s Keith Frazier.
G Josh Fortune: In Fortune’s first season playing with the Buffaloes after transferring from Providence, the redshirt junior has been hit and miss. Some nights, Fortune is a three-point threat, but other times, he’s a non-factor. The Colorado guard, however, learned to help his team in other ways during his off year; he distributes the ball well and rebounds well.
Matchup to Watch
Josh Scott vs. Jordan Tolbert: Scott easily has the height and weight advantages on Tolbert, but when have measurables ever stopped the Texas Tech transfer from outplaying his opponent? This battle will be key because of the physical nature of it and because of the foul trouble it could cause for both players. If either player gets two early fouls, their respective teams will be losing a big chunk of their productivity.
Keys to the Game
The Buffaloes have good depth in both the front and backcourts, so they key for SMU will be to stay out of foul trouble. Especially with Frazier and Kennedy both still not 100-percent, the Mustangs can’t afford for any of their key contributors to sit out extended periods of time. Colorado could really hurt the Mustangs from anywhere on the court, so SMU will simply have to play solid overall defense. The Mustangs, who have been burned by the three ball in the past, will have to limit King’s and Fortune’s outside opportunities. And with Scott’s ability to create opportunities all over the court, SMU will have to play some of their sharpest basketball on the defensive side. Offensively, the Mustangs really just need to limit turnovers and continue to do what they’ve been doing all season long—share the ball.