When: Sunday, February 21 at 1 p.m. CT
Where: Moody Coliseum (Dallas, Texas)
TV/Radio: ESPNews/KAAM 770 AM
Last Meeting: SMU won 79-55
Series: SMU leads 8-4
The Line: SMU -19.5
While SMU was in it until the end, they could not come away with the victory in Hartford against UConn. In the end, 7-footer Amida Brimah was the difference maker for the Huskies with his 16 points, eight rebounds and five blocks. The Mustangs made a number of shots down the stretch to keep them close, including a floater by Nic Moore and three-pointer by Sterling Brown, but they could not come away with the stops they needed. They’ve also now followed their last four wins with four losses after starting the season 18-0.
Scouting East Carolina
The Pirates don’t do anything extraordinary, and they’ve only won two conference games, but they do have some talent at the guard positions. In fact, ECU has four guards averaging at least 10 PPG, led by freshman Kentrell Barkley and junior Caleb White. Barkley, along with B.J. Tyson and Prince Williams combined for 61 points in their upset win over Memphis. The Pirates’ guards will shoot the ball more often then not, but they struggle to knock them down consistently. While their backcourt is decent, the Pirates have struggled all season long to find any kind of consistent production from their frontcourt. Most of the time you’ll see ECU go with a four-guard lineup. Defensively, ECU just doesn’t have the athletes to compete with the likes of Ben Moore, Jordan Tolbert and Shake Milton.
Three Players to Watch
B.J. Tyson (15.1 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 2.4 APG): The sophomore guard is the Pirates’ leading scorer, and while he can be hit and miss some games, his eight 20-point games is enough to be concerned about. Tyson’s defense was also part of the reason Nic Moore was quiet offensively last time these two teams met.
Caleb White (12.8 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.4 APG): Even though he’s more of a wing player, White is ECU’s best three-point shooter. The junior, who has six 20-point games of his own, won’t shy away from launching shots from behind the arc. But even at 6-foot-7, he’s not much of a rebounder.
Kentrell Barkley (10.3 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 3.0 APG): The freshman has put together an impressive first campaign for the Pirates. He leads the team in rebounds (6.2 RPG), and he shoots a formidable 46-percent from the field. He tends to differ to the upperclassmen, but if the Mustangs limit his open shots inside the arc, they will have a good shot at making life difficult for the freshman once again.
Projected Starting Five:
G Prince Williams
G B.J. Tyson
F Kentrell Barkley
F Michel Nzege
F Kanu Aja
Matchup to Watch
Ben Moore vs. ECU’s bigs: Moore had one of his best games of the season last time these two teams met, dropping 17 points on 8-12 shooting. The junior took full advantage of his length and athleticism, which is no surprise considering the Pirates’ lack of athleticism and skill in the frontcourt. If Nic Moore somehow is limited again like he was last time these two teams met, the taller Moore will have to once again play at a high level.
Keys To the Game
The Mustangs handily defeated this same team a couple of months back thanks to their incredible shooting performance and their rebounding. It’s not everyday a team is going to make 11 three-pointers and shoot 50-percent from the field, but SMU, who out rebounded the Pirates by 20 last game, can have another big night on the boards. The Mustangs have been limited some because of their lack of depth, but big nights from Tolbert, Moore and Kennedy down low will set the tone. The Pirates are a team that likes to shoot the deep ball, and while they’re inconsistent, they can catch fire with guys like White or Tyson. Also look for Barkley to play a bigger role in this game after seeing just 14 minutes of action last time these two teams met. If Barkley can grab a few offensive boards and get into the paint, this could be a much closer game then people expect.