When: Sunday, February 7 at 1:00 p.m CT
Where: Sun Dome (Tampa, FL)
TV/Radio: CBS Sports Network/KAAM 770 AM
Series: SMU leads 6-3
Last Meeting: SMU defeated USF at the Moody Coliseum 72-58 January 2.
Line: SMU -16
SMU is coming off a disappointing 71-68 loss to the Houston Cougars Monday night, which was just their second loss of the season. In what has become a concerning trend as of late, SMU once again lacked the energy necessary to win a game on the road and struggled in a couple areas defensively. SMU was badly outrebounded 41-27 including giving up 15 offensive rebounds. SMU was better guarding the three but still allowed Houston to go seven of 16 behind the three-point arc. This was SMU’s second loss in their last three games. It wasn’t a good night for SMU all around however they did get a good performance from Markus Kennedy who put up 12 points and nine rebounds.
It’s been a long year for a young USF team that is just 2-9 in conference play and just five and 19 overall. Despite a two game winning streak with wins over Houston and Tulane, they are coming off back-to-back losses including an 88-57 loss to Cincinnati. USF freshman Jahmal McMurray has been a bright spot for the Bulls but he needs help from his teammates on both ends of the floor. The Bulls are averaging just 63 points per game while averaging 15 turnovers per game. USF has been without Chris Perry their last four games after being suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules. It is not yet known if he will return for Sunday’s matchup with SMU.
Three Players to Watch:
McMurray has had a very good freshman year averaging 15 points and just over two assists and two rebounds per game. McMurray only shoots 39 percent from the field but he has provided this squad with the offensive punch they need to stay competitive in games. Perhaps the best example of McMurray’s season so far was his last matchup with SMU. The 6-0, 175-pound guard put up 17 points but also had four turnovers. Turnovers have been a problem for McMurray who’s only had three games in conference play with less than three turnovers and there have been five games he’s had four turnovers.
Up until their last matchup with Cincinnati where Nunez had eight points and six turnovers, he was on a pretty good run in conference play. In his last five games previously, Nunez was averaging 14 points per game and was the only other USF player to be averaging double figures. The 6-8 senior forward has also provided a lift on the boards averaging almost six rebounds per game. He was quiet earlier this season in USF’s loss to SMU where he only had six points and one rebound while battling foul trouble.
If SMU is going to figure out their rebounding woes of late, they’re going to have to do it against the 6-11, 265-pound senior who’s averaging just over eight rebounds per game. Cousins has also been providing a bit of a scoring punch averaging eight points there as well and will be a tough matchup for a thin SMU front line. Cousins is on a solid run as of late with a ten point and ten rebound performance against Cincinnati. Cousins recently put up 17 points and nine rebounds against Tulane. He is a physical player down low and will absolutely try to get SMU in foul trouble early.
Matchup to watch:
Jaleel Cousins vs. Markus Kennedy- Coach Brown challenged his upper classmen to come out with more energy and effort than what they have brought the past couple of weeks. What better way to set the tone for SMU than shutting down USF’s leading rebounder in a tough matchup down low. Kennedy has always served as SMU’s emotional leader down low and can provide SMU a big lift early if he gets going.
Keys To the Game
SMU has got to come out with more energy than they have recently. They are going against a team that has not had a lot go right this year and if SMU can jump out to a big lead that will put a significant dent in USF’s confidence. They can do this by getting back to dominating the boards, as well as, focusing on taking better shots every time down. USF has not shot the three well but that hasn’t stopped teams this year from trying and Sunday will be no different. This should definitely be a focus for the Ponies as well if they want to get back on the right track.