When: Thursday, January 19 at 6 p.m. CT
Where: Moody Coliseum (Dallas, TX)
TV/Radio: ESPN2/KAAM 770
Series: SMU leads 4-2 (after vacating a pair of wins in 2013-14)
Last Meeting: SMU won 80-54 at Moody on March 3
The Mustangs bounced back with a solid win over Tulane after losing 66-64 to Cincinnati a week ago. While the win over the Green Wave was important to help shake off the loss to Cincinnati, and get them ready to beat a struggling Huskies team. SMU’s win streak might have been interrupted with last Thursday’s loss, but the Mustangs have still won 11 of their last 12 and are 11-0 at home this season.
The last 12 teams to face SMU have been held to 66 points or less, and have a season scoring defense of 59.7 which ranks second in the American Athletic Conference and sixth in the NCAA.
The Huskies have won two straight AAC contests, after beginning conference play 0-3. The Huskies are 1-4 on the road this season and will face a tough challenge in taking on SMU in Moody Coliseum, a place Connecticut has won at including last year's 80-54 blowout loss in Dallas. The Huskies' latest loss came to Georgetown by three points even though Connecticut missed three shots including two potential game-tying three-point looks in the final 14 seconds. Connecticut lead by six at the half too. Even with Jalen Adams having 17 of his 22 points in the second half and a look at the game-tying three, it wasn't enough. Another tough loss for the Huskies on what has been a rough year overall.
UConn Players to Watch
G Jalen Adams: The sophomore guard leads the Huskies in scoring with 15.6 points per game and in rebounds with 6.4 per game.
G Rodney Purvis: The redshirt senior is averaging 12.6 points per game and is grabbing 4.8 rebounds per game.
F Kentan Facey: The senior forward leads the Huskies with 7.1 rebounds per game and is averaging 7.6 points per game.
Projected UConn starters:
F Vance Jackson
F Kentan Facey
C Amida Brimah
G Rodney Purvis
G Jalen Adams
Projected SMU starters:
G Shake Milton
G Jarrey Foster
G Sterling Brown
F Ben Moore
F Semi Ojeleye
Matchup to Watch
Semi Ojeleye and Amida Brimah: We’ve gotten to see Brimah and SMU’s bigs go at it for years. Now that SMU has gone away from the traditional roster structure and moved away from the idea of having a true big, it will be interesting to see how they deal with Brimah: a 7-foot, 230-pound center. Ojeleye is probably the physically strongest Mustang and his athleticism should allow him to match up with Brimah—could be a fun battle to watch.
Keys to the Game
UConn is shooting .312 percent from 3-point range, but when playing SMU those number could jump up a bit. SMU needs to close out and defend the 3-point line and take advantage of UConn’s turnovers. The Huskies are turning the ball over an average of 12.5 times a game. SMU can also take advantage of UConn’s inability to dominate on the boards. The Huskies only outrebound their opponents with a margin of +1.1 per game. Against Cincinnati, a much tougher opponent, SMU failed to defend the 3-point line and was unable to consistently make its layups. Missing the easy shots and allowing open looks is a quick way to lose ball games. What's should be even more frustrating for the Mustangs is that despite their poor performance a week ago, the only lost to Cincinnati by two points. The Huskies may not be their usual selves in 2017, but their rich history and tradition of excellence on the hardwood cannot be ignored. By whooping up on a weaker Tulane team, SMU needs to be careful not to be too confident Thursday night when lining up against a UConn team that sits below .500.