When: Tuesday, December 29 at 4 pm CT
Where: Donald W. Reynolds Center (Tulsa, Okla.)
TV/Radio: ESPN2/KAAM 770 AM
Series: Tulsa leads the series 30-16.
Last Meeting: SMU beat Tulsa 67-62 on March 8 to win the regular season AAC title.
SMU is coming off a win over a solid Colorado team in the Las Vegas Classic to win the championship. SMU finished the game on with a 14-1 run to comeback and win 70-66, all without making a single three-point shot. The Mustangs did go 0-5 from beyond the arc, but pounded the ball inside. Colorado outrebounded SMU 48-44, but SMU dominated scoring in the paint, while Colorado had another good night from beyond the arc. SMU though has been off for almost a week and some players have been able to go home, which could lead to some rust coming off the holidays. Markus Kennedy sprained his ankle against Michigan and looked better scoring 12 points in his return, but the clutch free throws and scoring from freshman Shake Milton won the day for SMU against the Buffaloes. It will be interesting to see how SMU does coming off their break as they open AAC play.
After falling to Oregon State in the Far West Classic by blowing a lead, Tulsa beat up on poor Northern Arizona 90-55. The Golden Hurricane jumped out to a 19-0 lead to start and cruised to the win. All five starters scored in double figures and Rashad Ray also had 11 points. After a tough loss to Oregon State, Tulsa got just what the doctor ordered. Tulsa is getting over 25 points per game from their bench so the Golden Hurricane has solid depth. Tulsa is built a lot like SMU with plenty of guards and without a legitimate true rim protector. There's plenty of athleticism and these two teams don't like eachother especially after SMU took their AAC title hopes away.
Three Key Players
G James Woodard: Woodard almost single-handedly beat SMU last year with 30 points on 10-of-16 from three-point range. SMU will allow Woodard to try to do that again if that's how Tulsa wants to play it and rely on team defense across the board elsewhere. Woodard though makes clutch shots and that's where he can really hurt SMU if he can keep Tulsa hanging around. The senior wants his last year to certainly take a turn upwards and he'll be doing everything he can to make that happen.
G Shaquille Harrison: Harrison is averaging over 17 points per game for Tulsa, but after starting out with five straight 20+ point games, Harrison has had just one 20-point game in his last seven. It's not that he's not contributing, but it's tough to be that hot for an extended period of time. Last year, Harrison scored 10 points in each game against SMU and also grabbed eight and nine rebounds. Harrison can't have a solid all-around game like that against SMU.
F D'Andre Wright: While Brandon Swannegan is close to becoming Tulsa's No. 4 man in blocks, Wright is the one SMU has to watch for. He can physically matchup against Kennedy and Jordan Tolbert, but he was a ghost in last year's game in Moody Coliseum. Wright did tally 13 and six against SMU in Tulsa last year. Tulsa is built a lot like SMU without a legitimate big man, but Wright is their best option in the paint. SMU must dominate him.
Matchup to Watch
Harrison vs. Frazier: Woodard's counterpart in the backcourt is Harrison, who will likely get Keith Frazier as his matchup this game. Frazier has proven now that he can defend the opposing team's best players and figures to get Tulsa's leading scorer this afternoon. If Frazier brings his A game, it will again be on Woodard's shoulders to carry the Golden Hurricane. If Woodard has to carry the team and SMU shuts down the rest of Tulsa, that's fine. Takeaway Woodard's partner in the backcourt and make this team one dimensional.
Keys to the Game
Defending the three. If SMU allows Tulsa to come out at home and make three-point shots early and often, it might be too big of a hold for SMU to dig themselves out of. SMU has allowed this to happen at times this season and it gets the other team confidence early and reason to believe they can win. If SMU can't stop the three from Tulsa's group of shooters, they'll really have to answer with the three-ball even after their 0-5 performance against Colorado. SMU better be ready defensively because Tulsa matches up well against SMU and can jump out in front.