When: Thursday, March 3 at 8 p.m. CT
Where: Moody Coliseum (Dallas, Tex.)
TV/Radio: ESPN2/KAAM 770 AM
Series: SMU leads 5-2
Last Meeting: SMU lost 68-62
The Line: SMU -4.5
Despite a disappointing first half against Tulane, the No. 24 Mustangs took care of business in the second half on Sunday to improve to 24-4 on the season. While Nic Moore struggled offensively the entire game, Ben Moore (16 points), Sterling Brown (15 points) and Shake Milton (14 points) picked up the slack. The Mustangs also dominated the paint the entire game, outrebounding the Green Wave 42-20, which is something the Mustangs struggled with last time they faced UConn. SMU’s activity on the boards and in the paint helped them keep it close in the first half while shooting just 37 percent. They also were able to overcome 18 turnovers. Looking towards senior night with a packed house expected, the Mustangs will be in a good position to avenge their loss from earlier in the season to the Huskies. Sitting at 12-4 in AAC play, The Mustangs are tied with Temple for the top spot with games against UConn and Cincinnati left. The Owls face Memphis and Tulane in their remaining league play.
The Huskies make their money of the defensive side of the court. As we saw last time these two teams met, the Huskies are a talented squad and will bring their best against the Mustangs. Shonn Miller, Daniel Hamilton and Amida Brimah, all played big roles in the paint against the Mustangs, which led to the Huskies outscoring SMU 26-20 inside. Miller and Brimah both took advantage of their size advantage against the Mustangs, which led to 16 points from the Ghana native and 12 from the Cornell transfer. Their length on the defensive end, and the team’s overall defense, helped disrupt Markus Kennedy and Jordan Tolbert on the offensive side.
Hamilton did not have the best shooting night last time he played against the Mustangs, but he is still UConn’s most versatile player because of his length and athleticism. Role players like Rodney Purvis, Omar Calhoun and Jalen Adam all have the ability to knock down shots for the Huskies as well.
Three Players to Watch
F Shonn Miller (13.0 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 44.4 3P%): The graduate transfer from Cornell can score from all over the court, but his defensive presence is what mattered the most the last time these two teams met. If Miller can once again have the effect on Kennedy and Tolbert like he did just a few weeks ago, the Mustangs could find themselves in trouble in the frontcourt.
G Daniel Hamilton (11.6 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 5 APG): Hamilton’s 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. While his shots aren’t falling like he would like them to (38 FG%), he’s still someone that the Mustangs will have to keep an eye on whenever he is on the court. And because of his athleticism, they’ll have to work to keep him off of the offensive boards as well.
C Amida Brimah (7.1 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.5 BPG): Brimah had his best game of the season since the first game of the season when he played the Mustangs in February. And while he hasn’t been overly productive in his three games since then, his length is something that cannot be ignored. Whether he’s on the block looking to score or guarding SMU’s big men, the 7-footer will be a key factor in tonight’s matchup.
Projected Starting Lineup:
C Amida Brimah
F Daniel Hamilton
F Shonn Miller
G Jalen Adams
G Sterling Gibbs
Matchup to Watch
Amida Brimah vs. Jordan Tolbert: Brimah was the Huskies’ X-Factor last time these two teams faced off, and he held Tolbert, one of the Mustangs’ most consistent offensive players, to just nine points. The Texas Tech transfer will have to do his best to limit Brimah’s chances on the block, but the key will be for him to keep the Ghana native off of the boards. If Brimah and Miller start to get second-chance opportunities for the Huskies, the Mustangs could have their senior night spoiled.
Keys To the Game
While UConn didn’t outrebound the Mustangs the last time these two teams met, they did have 12 second-chance points and 26 points in the paint thanks to the presence of Brimah, Miller and Hamilton. As SMU aims to send their seniors off on the right foot, they will have to protect the paint better. Whether it’s defending the Huskies down low, or limiting their activity on the boards, SMU will have to do it all. The Mustangs also did a nice job of defending behind the arc, which is something they’ll have to keep up. Turnovers were a big reason why Tulane stuck around so long over the weekend, but if SMU has another 18-turnover day, they won’t be as lucky. SMU will also have to keep Hamilton, coming off of maybe his best game of the year, in check, especially with him looking to bounce back from his last performance vs. the Mustangs.