Game Preview: SMU Mustangs vs. Cincinnati Bearcats

Billy previews SMU's AAC matchup on ESPN against Cincinnati.

When: Thursday, January 7 at 6 pm CT
Where: Moody Coliseum (Dallas, Texas)
TV/Radio: ESPN/KAAM 770 AM
Series: SMU trails 2-5 to Cincinnati
Last Meeting: SMU lost 62-54 on Feb. 5.

Pony Trends

SMU has had a tumultuous last month with injuries, the return of Larry Brown and now the Keith Frazier saga. That being said, SMU is undefeated and coming off a win over a bad USF team. SMU didn't shoot the ball well at all against the Bulls, shooting a season low 41.1 from the field. The team especially struggled from beyond the arc, shooting 26 percent from three-point range. SMU will need Nic Moore and Shake Milton to bounce back from average nights to create more space for SMU's big men to operate. Markus Kennedy, Ben Moore and Jordan Tolbert have been very good most of the season and against a physical Cincinnati team, they'll need to be just that. Above all else, SMU will have to block out the noise once again with the Frazier saga.

Scouting Cincinnati

Against a struggling Tulsa team, Cincinnati bounced back from two straight losses against Iowa State and Temple with a stifling performance. The Bearcats held Tulsa to 33 percent from the field and were led by Farad Cobb, who had 21 points. The Bearcats showed a huge improvement defensively against the Golden Hurricane. It was a big confidence boost for the Bearcats, who really haven't beaten anyone good at all this season. Cincinnati matches up well with SMU and have some big men in Octavius Ellis and Gary Clark, who can really bang down low with SMU. 

Three Players to Watch

Farad CobbCobb was named to the AAC's Weekly Honor Roll on Monday after averaging over 15 points per game last week. Cobb has been hot from three-point range as well. 

Troy CaupainCaupain has a great assist to turnover ratio at 3.4, which has been a big part of his leading 4.8 assists per game on the team. Caupain does a great job running the show and with SMU short-handed, the Mustangs will have to limit his ability to get the offense churning.

Octavius EllisEllis is going to be a handful against SMU at 6-10, 235 and is sixth in the AAC in blocks. The big trouble will be slowing his scoring as Ellis is shooting over 60 percent from the floor. Ellis has length that SMU will have to match with Tolbert and Kennedy.

Matchup to Watch

Ellis vs. Kennedy: Ellis and Kennedy have battled over the last couple years plenty of times. Last year, Ellis scored 12 points and six points in the past two games against SMU so it's possible that SMU can really limit his game. Ellis has the benefit of SMU having only three capable big men that can really match up with his size. Sterling Brown and Jarrey Foster would have a little trouble subbing down low against Ellis. Kennedy has to feel the brunt of the task of shutting Ellis down, which he's more than capable of. It'll without a doubt be the most physical matchup on the court.

Key to the Game

Eliminate the outside scoring threats. While Caupain isn't a stellar three-point shooter, Cobb has been hot from beyond the arc this year, shooting 47 percent from beyond the arc. The Mustangs can't let him get in a groove early or SMU will be forced to really pay attention outside. SMU has their hands full with three capable forwards that start for Cincinnati. The last thing the Mustangs need is for Cincinnati to heat up from outside, especially early in the game. Even with the early start, SMU should have a good crowd. Cincinnati will do its best to silence the crowd early, but SMU can't come out asleep or the Bearcats will take advantage.

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