Sterling Brown (Photo by Matt Visinsky)

Game Preview: SMU vs. Tulsa

Demo previews SMU's matchup in Moody Coliseum against Tulsa on Thursday at 7 p.m. CT with a chance to take another step towards the AAC title.

SMU (25-4 overall, 15-1 in AAC) vs. Tulsa (14-14 overall, 8-8 in AAC)
: Thursday, March 2 at 7 p.m. CT
WHERE: Moody Coliseum (Dallas, TX.)
SERIES: Tulsa leads 31-18
LAST MEETING: SMU won, 76-53, on February 4, 2017

Pony Trends

This train just keeps on rolling along, and with just two games left in the regular season SMU has an opportunity to finish 27-4, which is simply an incredible feat for a team under a first-year head coach and an impossibly short bench.

The Mustangs are in the middle of an 11-game winning streak after beating UConn 69-61 last Saturday. Now SMU comes home to close out the regular season against Tulsa and Memphis. SMU hasn’t lost at Moody this season (16-0) and has won 20 consecutive home games, which is tied for fourth in the country for active home win streaks.

The Mustangs have stayed on brand all season, playing tough defense and shooting well. SMU has held 21 of their last 22 opponents to 66 points or less while shooting 46.1 percent from the field which is second in the American Athletic Conference.

The Mustangs have also outrebounded 25 of their 29 opponents and have had a rebounds margin of at least +10 in 16 games—including 12 of 16 AAC games.     

Scouting Tulsa

Tulsa has won back-to-back games, including a 74-66 win over East Carolina on Sunday.  After graduating nine seniors last season, Tulsa has had to use a ton of new faces in 2017. Ten players on its roster made their Tulsa debuts this season and have accounted for 66.5 percent of Tulsa’s points. In its last two wins, Tulsa has shot 44 percent from the field and 44 percent from 3-point range. This small win-streak comes on the tail end of a six game losing streak that began February 1 and ended on February 23 with a win over USF (82-68).     

Key Tulsa Players to Watch

F Martins Ibanu: The true freshman was AAC Rookie of the Week last week as he averaged 12.0 points and 7.5 rebounds in Tulsa last two wins. He also 54 percent from the field and 50 percent from 3-point range.    

F Junior Etou: The redshirt junior, scored a game-high 23 points against East Carolina—21 of those points came in the second half.

Projected Tulsa Starters: 
F Junior Etou
F Martins Igbanu
G Pat Birt
G Jaleel Wheeler
G Sterling Taplin 

Projected SMU Starters: 
G Shake Milton
G Sterling Brown
G Jarrey Foster
F Ben Moore
F Semi Ojeleye

Matchup to Watch

Junior Etou vs Semi Ojeleye: Etou is Tulsa’s best scorer, averaging 12.8 points per game, and also its best rebounder, averaging 6.9 rebounds a game. Etou can also shoot the 3-ball exceptionally well, and is 44 percent from the 3-point line this season. It will likely fall to Ojeleye to guard Etou for most of the night, it will be imperative that he keep him off the glass—particularly on the offensive end to limit second chance opportunities for a team that typically shoots very well.

Keys to the Game

This is a game SMU really shouldn’t be too worried about. At this point of the season, SMU has already shown they can hang with just about anybody and have beaten those teams that they were supposed to. SMU just needs to handle its business Thursday—that entails all the normal things defense and rebounding.

Tulsa is ninth in the conference in scoring offense (64.4), but is fifth in 3-point field goal percentage with .0347. Collectively, Tulsa’s percentage from beyond the arc isn’t anything to worry about really, but individually is a different story. Etou shoots 44 percent from 3-point range, while Igbanu shoots 56 percent and sterling Taplin shoots 42 percent this season. Four of Tulsa’s starting five are 3-point threats. Limiting offensive rebounds and those second chance 3-pointers will be key.

And as always, with its short bench, SMU needs to be mindful of fouls—particularly early on. 

Tim Jankovich Feb. 28 Presser

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