When: Sunday, January 10 at 3:00 p.m CT
Where: Moody Coliseum (Dallas, TX)
TV/Radio: ESPNU/KAAM 700 AM
Series: SMU leads 7-6
Last Meeting: SMU defeated UCF 75-56 in Dallas on January 31 of last season.
What hasn’t the SMU basketball team had to overcome this season? Despite losing players left and right to attrition and injury, the Mustangs just keep finding a way to win. With just seven scholarship players available for SMU’s 59-57 win over Cincinnati, the Mustangs showed grit late to improve to 14-0. This came despite SMU playing with six scholarship players most of the game after Sterling Brown was ejected for leaving the bench. The Mustangs are ranked 2nd in the AAC at 81.1 points per game and is top ten in both assists and field goal percentage in the NCAA.This has been because of SMU’s good decision making and ball movement, as well as, the great play they’ve received from a number of their big men especially Ben Moore and Jordan Tolbert.
Young and ready to compete, UCF is a tougher matchup than they have been in the past. Off to a 2-0 start in conference play, the Knights have been in every game this season with only one of their 5 losses coming by more than 6 points. The key to this turnaround has been an increase in efficiency on the offensive side of the ball. The Knights are averaging just over 75 points per game on over 46 percent shooting. The problem for UCF in their losses has been they haven’t been able to stop people on the other side of the ball with opponents averaging 71 points per game. UCF is also a young team and with this has come a high rate of turnovers in just over 14 per game, which has also given the Knights problems over the course of the year.
Three Players to Watch
Adonys Henriquez: The 6-6, 210 pound guard has had a great start to his sophomore campaign and quickly developing into the leader of this Knights team. Henriquez can beat you from both inside and outside the arc with multiple games in which he’s hit at least four threes. The talented guard gave SMU problems last year in their second matchup putting up 22 points while going 6 of 11 shots from behind the three point line. Henriquez is by far UCF’s most talented offensive player and will be a huge focus for SMU all night long.
A.J Davis: Another one of those talented young guys for UCF is the 6-9, 215 pound sophomore. In his first season at UCF, Davis is averaging just over 13 points per game and just fewer than 6 boards per night as well. Davis’s big strength might be his versatility as he can play one through four and has impressive athleticism when he drives to the basket. Davis can shoot it from outside but prefers to drive it to the basket when he can. As talented as Davis has been, he does have 17 turnovers in his last five games including seven against Detroit. For a team that loves to force turnovers, this is an area SMU certainly may attack.
Tacko Fall: The 7-6, 300-pound freshman caught the nations attention earlier this season when many heard he was one of the tallest players in the NCAA. He has not disappointed this season making a difference all over the court. Fall is only averaging 8 points and 5 rebounds, but has nearly three blocks per game and countless other shots he has impacted. Fall isn’t playing a ton of minutes yet as he’s still learning the collegiate game, but when he’s been on the floor this season, he has certainly been a difference maker on the defensive end. Fall has struggled the past couple of weeks after a strong start to the season, but at 7-6, he is always going to be a guy to keep an eye on when he’s on the floor.
Matchup to watch
A.J Davis vs. Sterling Brown- This should be a fun matchup throughout with one of SMU’s best defender going against UCF’s leading scorer. Brown has the size to match up well with Davis but will need to move his feet and stay out of foul trouble if he’s going to hold the Knight’s playmaker in check. On the other end of the court, Brown needs to force Davis to guard him on every possession and wear him out over the course of the game.
Keys To the Game
Beware of a letdown. After coming off a win like the one SMU had on Thursday night against Cincinnati, often the next game proves to be tough just because of the energy that was expended in that big test for the Mustangs. Having a big home crowd with a number of students back should help SMU get the lift they need in a game that might be more challenging than it appears.