When: Tuesday, January 19 at 8 p.m. CT
Where: Moody Coliseum
TV/Radio: ESPNU/KAAM 770 AM
Series: Houston leads 47-29
Last Meeting: SMU defeated Houston 80-59
The Line: SMU -13
Sunday, SMU edged out Tulane in what was one of the Mustangs ugliest games of the season. SMU shot a season worst 40.4 percent from the field. It was a day filled with mental errors as SMU turned the ball over 15 times. A better team could have taken advantage of SMU’s sloppy play. Still, SMU remains undefeated (17-0) and continues to climb in the polls, coming into Tuesday’s game No. 8 in the AP Top 25. SMU leads the American Athletic Conference with 80.2 points a game, 51.5 percent overall shooting, 42.4 percent from 3-point range, 18.4 assists per game, and 1.49 assists to turnover ratio. In 14 of their 17 games, four Mustangs have scored in double-figures. Nic Moore, of course, is leading the way with 15.2 points and 5.1 assists a game.
Houston (13-4, 3-2) is looking to stop their current losing streak at two games when it faces SMU on Tuesday. SMU played sloppily Sunday against Tulane and if they bring the same lack of focus to the court Tuesday night, the Cougars have the fire power to make them pay. At 78.7 points a game, Houston is the second most potent offense in the AAC. This season’s scoring average is the highest for Houston since 2007-08 (78.9).
Three Players to Watch
Rob Gray Jr.: He’s the Cougars’ and the AAC’s leading scorer with an average of 17.5 points a game.
Devonta Pollard: The senior forward is averaging 13 points and 6.1 rebounds a game for Houston. He is also one of only six players to rank among the AAC’s top 17 leaders in both categories.
Damean Dotson: Leads the team with 126 rebounds at a clip of 7.4 a game. He’s also averaging 11.5 points a game.
Projected Starters: Gray, Pollard, Dotson, G Galen Robinson and C Kyle Meyer.
Matchup to Watch
Markus Kennedy vs Devonta Pollard: It’s been awhile since Kennedy has put big numbers on the board. I wouldn’t be surprised if the offense looks at him and Jordan Tolbert a lot down low. The key will be keeping him out of foul trouble. Pollard and Danard Knowles leads Houston with 83 fouls this season. They are very physical and will try to get Kennedy and Tolbert to get rough with them.
Keys To the Game
After Sunday’s performance, priority number one has to be ball security. Fifteen turnovers is simply too many.
Also, as we saw with Nic Moore having to sit out most of the first half, it is absolutely pivotal that SMU remain out of foul trouble. This will be a big area of concern when it comes to the bigs. Like I said above, the Houston bigs like to get very physical in the paint. Kennedy and Tolbert, especially, will need to play smart.
The final key is boxing out on the defensive end. While Houston is nowhere near as good at dominating the glass as SMU is, they do have a couple players that crash the boards well—particularly on the defensive end. Still, to further emphasize how much better SMU is at rebounding than Houston: Tolbert has 71 offensive rebounds—Houston’s top two offensive rebounders have a combined total of 68.