SMU (24-4 overall, 14-1 in AAC) vs. Connecticut (14-13 overall, 9-6 in AAC)
WHEN: Saturdayday, February 25 at 11 a.m. CT
WHERE: XL Center (Hartford, Conn.)
TV/RADIO: CBS/CBS Sports Online | KAAM 770 AM
SERIES: SMU leads the series 7-2 (5-2 officially with wins in 2013-14 vacated)
LAST MEETING: SMU won 69-49 in Moody Coliseum on January 19, 2017
The Mustangs have gotten some much needed rest since beating Houston, 76-66, a week ago. Now let’s see if the Mustangs will come out looking rested or rusty.
SMU has won 10 consecutive games and 20 of their last 21. With how well the Mustangs have been on the road this season, you’d like to think the win streak will get extended by tomorrow afternoon, even if UConn won the last match up in Hartford.
Last season, the Huskies beat SMU 68-62 in Connecticut. Still, SMU is 7-1 on the road in conference play. Back in January, SMU thoroughly beat the Huskies 69-49, on a night where Shake Milton scored 23 points.
Regardless of records, SMU vs UConn is almost always an interesting game, particularly in the XL Center.
Back to some more SMU centric trends—the Mustangs have been playing great defense all season long and their scoring defense of 58.9 ranks first in the American Athletic Conference and third in the NCAA.
SMU also leads the conference with a rebound margin of +10.9, which is good for second in the NCAA.
SMU isn’t just playing solid defense, the Mustangs are also shooting the ball well this season. With a shooting percentage of 46.1 percent from the field (second in AAC) and 39.1 percent from 3-point range (second in AAC), the Mustangs are one of the more potent offensive attacks in the conference.
The Huskies 75-70 loss to Houston Wednesday night ended a five-game win-streak for UConn. Still the Huskies have been on somewhat of a roll, with wins in seven of their last nine contests. Saturday’s showdown with SMU will be the Huskies final regular season contest in the XL Center.
There will never be a time when I don’t worry about SMU’s 3-point defense. UConn is another great 3-point shooting team, and while streaks of consecutive games with just one 3-pointer aren’t really that impressive in and of themselves, a streak of 272 games is pretty darn impressive.
The Huskies hit six 3-pointers against Houston on Wednesday, which continued a streak theta goes back more than seven years.
Also, when it comes to shooting the 3-ball, UConn is the best in the AAC—shooting nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc in conference play. They are also averaging 7.3 made 3-pointers a game in AAC action.
Key UConn Players to Watch
G Jalen Adams: The sophomore guard leads the Huskies in scoring with 15 points per game, and assists with 6.6 per game. He leads the AAC in assists and his assist to turnover ratio of 2.1 is sixth in the conference.
G Rodney Purvis: SMU fans should be familiar with Purvis. The redshirt senior has been a driving force for Connecticut since 2014. With a 12 point performance against Tulsa in December, Purvis became the 49th player to reach 1,00 points at UConn. He is averagingn13.3 PPG this season.
Projected Connecticut Starters:
F Vance Jackson
F Kentan Facey
C Amida Brimah
G Rodney Purvis
G Jalen Adams
Projected SMU Starters:
G Shake Milton
G Sterling Brown
G Jarrey Foster
F Ben Moore
F Semi Ojeleye
Matchup to Watch
Amida Brimah vs Semi Ojeleye: SMU doesn’t have anyone that can match Brimah’s size, but Ojeleye is probably the most fit for wrestling with the Huskies’ 7-footer in the paint than anyone else. SMU’s lack of a traditional big has really yet to hurt them and even in the first meeting with UConn Brimah wasn’t much of a factor—playing only 15 minutes, scoring just two points, and picking up four personal fouls.
Keys to the Game
UConn likes to shoot the 3, but SMU shouldn’t pay more attention to it than normal. SMU has typically done a solid job on defense all the way around. There have been times when opponents have gotten hot from long-range and that alone is more than enough to incite fear, but the Mustangs have also demonstrated cool composure in tight games. The XL Center is going to be rocking on Saturday—even if it is an 11 a.m. tip—and SMU’s composure will be key. This is an opponent that the Mustangs handled very easily earlier in the year, nothing should be different this go-round. If the Mustangs take care of the ball, rebounds well, and limit UConn’s second chance looks, things should go well Saturday morning.