When: Saturday February 13 at 9 p.m. CT
Where: Moody Coliseum (Dallas, TX)
TV/Radio: ESPN2/KAAM 770 AM
Series: Gonzaga leads 1-0
Last Meeting: Gonzaga won 72-56 over SMU on November 17 last season.
What a difference three weeks can make. Through mid January SMU was flying high at 18-0 but has since dropped three of their last five with their only wins coming over a struggling Memphis squad and USF who is also experiencing a disappointing season. Perimeter defense and rebounding have been a big issue for SMU recently with teams scoring at will. SMU could not contain Shaquille Harrison Wednesday evening when he went for 21 points. On the night Tulsa shot over 58 percent for the game. SMU was great on the offensive glass with 19 offensive rebounds, which complemented another great 27-point performance from Nic Moore.
After a slow start to the season, the Bulldogs have won six straight games to reach the 20-win mark for the nineteenth consecutive season. Kyle Wiltjier and Domantas Sabonis are a force to deal with but it has been the play of Kyle Dranginis, Eric McLellan and Silas Melson that has been the key to Gonzaga’s recent run. All three were getting their first taste of major minutes earlier in the year but have started to grow up and so have the Bulldogs. Offensively the Bulldogs are as good as usual scoring efficiently shooting just under 50 percent on the year. With their size, Gonzaga has also put up close to 40 rebounds per game, which will be a big test for SMU.
Three Players to Watch:
Wiltjer is one of the more talented players SMU will face all season along because of all he can do. The senior forward is enjoying another impressive campaign with just less than 22 points and 7 rebounds per game. That is up almost 5 points more than last season. Wiltjer has got a wide array of post moves and has great touch all over the court. Wiltjer can also step out and hit the three, which makes him very tough to guard. Given SMU’s struggles guarding lately, Wiltjer will be a tough task for SMU all night.
With the loss of Przmek Karnowski out for the season with a back injury, more has been asked for Sabonis and he has delivered. Sabonis is averaging just less than 18 points per game and 12 rebounds per game and is coming off three straight solid double doubles. Sabonis has been on a rebounding tear lately including pulling down 20 against Pacific and 17 rebounds against Portland and Santa Clara. Given his length and being fairly agile for his size, boxing out is going to have to be a focus every possession otherwise Sabonis is going to have a big night.
After playing only five games last season, Perkins has been up and down throughout the year. Perkins is coming off a career high nine assist performance against Portland. As the season has gone along, Perkins has been better distributing the ball but has struggled with his shot at times. Perkins doesn’t shoot a great percentage from three but would rather drive the ball and look to get his points that way.
Matchup to watch:
Jordan Tolbert vs. Domontas Sabonis: This is a strength on strength matchup with both players excelling rebounding the ball. Both players will look to get their points close to the basket and this should be a physical matchup throughout.
Keys To the Game
SMU has got to play with urgency for 40 minutes. Too often in the last month there have been lapses in rebounding, effort or defensive that has cost the Mustangs wins in close games. Against a talented team like Gonzaga, they are going to make SMU pay for these mistakes. SMU also has to guard much better than they have lately or Wiltjer and Sabonis could give them fits all night.