When: Saturday, January 2 at 6:30 p.m CT
Where: Moody Colisieum (Dallas, TX)
TV/Radio: ESPNews/KAAM 700 AM
Series: SMU leads 5-3
Last Meeting: SMU defeated USF at the Sun Dome 63-52 last January.
SMU stayed undefeated earlier this week with an 81-69 win at Tulsa to begin conference play. After losses by Michigan State and Xavier, the Mustangs join Oklahoma and South Carolina as the only undefeated teams left. Shake Milton led the way with 24 points including going 7 of 8 from 3-point range. Nic Moore added 23 points as he got half in the second half. Ben Moore continued his strong start to the season with 11 points and 10 rebounds while Keith Frazier continued his up and down play after a hot start to the season. Saturday will also mark the first game back at Moody for coach Brown after his nine game suspension and will be SMU’s first home game in just over two weeks.
Not a whole lot has gone right for the USF Bulls who are off to a dreadful 3-11 start. Despite dropping to 0-1 in conference play, the Bulls did give Houston a run Wednesday night largely due to strong games from Chris Perry and Jahmal McMurray. The Bulls dominated the Cougars on the boards 45-23 and scored 26 points in the paint. This was a step in the right direction however USF have lost 6 of their last 7 games overall. USF has not been able to get anything going offensively all season averaging just 64 points per game on just over 41 percent shooting. SMU has struggled at times defending the three point line but that shouldn’t be an issue in this one with the Bulls averaging just 27 percent from behind the arc.
Three Players to Watch
Jahmal McMurray: One of the few bright spots for the Bulls this season has been the play of freshman Jahmal McMurray who is the only player averaging in double figures for the Bulls at 13.4 points per game. McMurray is certainly not an efficient scorer but has only been held in single digits twice this season. Despite USF not offering much of a threat from the three-point line, the 6-0, 175-pound guard is one of the few player that is a threat from the outside. Since the beginning of December, McMurray has also turned the ball over quite frequently lately with 11 of his 25 turnovers on the season coming in the last four games.
Chris Perry: After missing the second portion of last season with a problem in his left ventricle in his heart, Chris Perry has started to find his stride for the Bulls. Coming off a 19 point, 10 rebound performance, Perry turned in his third solid performance in recent games. The 6-8, 242-pound forward has been a forced on the boards this season with a couple of big nights including pulling down 17 rebounds against Troy and 8 against a long and athletic Kentucky squad.
Angel Nunez: One of the Bull’s senior leaders, and best all around players is Angel Nunez who is averaging just less than 10 points and 6 rebounds. Although Nunez is a force on the boards, turnovers have been a huge problem for him all season long. The 6-8, 202-pound senior has already had games this season of 5,6 and 7 turnovers with latter coming against Houston in USF’s last game. Nunez is going to give SMU a little bit of everything from a couple points, rebounds, but SMU will likely have their chances to force him into a couple of turnovers.
Matchup to Watch
Chris Perry vs. Jordan Tolbert: The matchup of these two forwards will be a battle of the boards all game long. Both players love to crash the glass and have the potential to put up impressive rebounding numbers. Largely due to Perry, Nunez and Jaleel Cousins, the Bulls have outrebounded their opponents much of the season. This will be key in deciding who walks away with the win and both of these players will have a big say on who wins the battle.
Keys to the Game
Staying out of foul trouble will once again be key for SMU in this one especially in the frontcourt. The Bulls just gave trouble because of their rebounding advantage and would pose similar problems for SMU if they get in foul trouble. Nonetheless, this is a team that has struggled all year long and if SMU can start fast, USF is not built to come back from a deficit especially with SMU being the more talented team. If the Mustangs can stay out of foul trouble and start fast, it will go a long way towards improving their record to 13-0.