Matt Visinsky

Game Preview: SMU Mustangs vs. Connecticut Huskies

Scott previews SMU's matchup at AAC foe Connecticut tonight at 7 CT on ESPN2.

When: Thursday, February 18 at 7 p.m. CT
Where: XL Center (Hartford, Conn.)
TV/Radio: ESPN2/KAAM 770 AM 
Series: SMU leads 5-1
Last Meeting: SMU won 62-54 in the AAC Championship game
Over/Under: 110
The Line: SMU +3

Pony Trends 

The Mustangs are coming off an energizing win against perennial power Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum over the weekend.  While the Bulldogs didn’t shoot particularly well, the Mustangs allowed Gonzaga to stick around thanks to 10 made three-pointers.  SMU also got out-rebounded by them 37-35, and gave up 14 offensive boards, which gave Gonzaga good second-chance looks.  

But in the end, the Mustangs walked away with the victory thanks to 25 points and 11 assists from Cousy Award finalist and Naismith Award midseason watch list honoree Nic Moore.  Tied at 46, Moore took over in the second half, scoring and assisting on six straight plays while willing the Mustangs to their 21st win.  Following a bounce-back win after losing their first home game of the season, the Mustangs will face rival UConn in Hartford, Connecticut.   

Scouting Connecticut

The Huskies are a talented squad, but they have been inconsistent at times this season.  They have upperclassmen talent thanks to the likes of Shonn Miller, Rodney Purvis and Amida Brimah, and Miller might be their most complete player with his ability to score from inside, outside, and defend.  Sophomore phenom Daniel Hamilton is another player to keep an eye because of his versatility.  He has the ability to score from all over the court, and at 6-foot-7, he immediately becomes a matchup nightmare when he gets into the paint against smaller guards.  

Miller and Brimah provide an important punch in the paint for the Huskies in the frontcourt, which couples well with the outside presence from Purvis and Sterling Gibbs.  The Huskies can knock down shots, especially on their home court, but they have also been streaky when it comes to the three-ball as of late.  

Jalen Adams, a five-start recruit coming out of high school last year, has also started showing glimpses of his talent the past five games, and Omar Calhoun is another role player to keep an eye on after he dropped 14 against Tulsa thanks to four 3-pointers.  

Defensively, Hamilton is obviously a load to handle thanks to his length, but Miller and Brimah are the main rim protectors.  Their athleticism, size and length will make the Mustangs work for points in the paint.  Another big man, Kentan Facey is someone to keep an eye on as well because of his length and athleticism. 

Three Players to Watch

F Shonn Miller (13.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 43.8 3P%): The graduate transfer from Cornell is the Huskies most versatile player.  He can score down on the block, and while he doesn’t shoot it often, he can knock down the outside shot as well.  If Markus Kennedy and Jordan Tolbert get into foul trouble, Miller will become a matchup problem for the Mustangs in a hurry.  

G/F Daniel Hamilton (11.7 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 5 APG): Just a sophomore, Hamilton has developed nicely as one focal point of the Huskies’ offense.  His ability to cause matchup problems against the guards he faces is second to none, and the more shots he makes, the more dangerous he’ll become. He's a great wing player for the Huskies. At his height, Hamilton will likely draw several different defenders from the Mustangs.  And because of his athleticism, they’ll have to work to keep him off of the offensive boards. 

C Amida Brimah (6.4 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.4 BPG): The Ghana native has not been healthy the entire year, but that doesn’t mean he still isn’t a force on the defensive side of the ball.  The 7-footer is still developing as an offensive player, but he can still block shots and disrupt offenses in a big way because of his length.

Projected Starters:
F Daniel Hamilton
F Shonn Miller
C Amida Brimah
G Sterling Gibbs
G Omar Calhoun

Matchup to Watch

Daniel Hamilton vs. Shake Milton: My guess is Milton gets the first shot at guarding Hamilton, but that could change quickly.  Milton has the length and quickness to guard the Southern California native, but he could still easily find himself in foul trouble early if Hamilton tries to take him into the paint.  For Milton, he’ll also be facing a tough matchup when he’s on offense.  Hamilton has the length and athleticism to stick right with Milton. 

Keys To the Game

The Huskies have talent across the board, but the Mustangs matchup well with them.  Down low, Tolbert, Kennedy and Ben Moore will have to keep Brimah and Miller off the boards as much as they can.  Second-chance points have hurt the Mustangs of late, and if they allow guys like Hamilton, Purvis or Calhoun to hurt them with the three, it could be a long night in Hartford.  In the backcourt, Sterling Brown, Nic Moore and Shake Milton will draw the task of guarding Hamilton, Purvis, Gibbs, and Jalen Adams.  If the Huskies start to knock down shot from outside, like they have the ability to, SMU will fall behind quickly.  The Mustangs will once again have to stay out of foul trouble as well.  If guys like Tolbert, Kennedy and Nic Moore have to sit for extended time, the Mustangs will face an uphill battle defending guys like Brimah, Miller and Purvis. 

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