SMU forward Semi Ojeleye (Photo by Matt Visinsky)

Game Preview: SMU vs. East Carolina in AAC Tournament at 11 a.m. on Friday

SMU faces East Carolina on Friday at 11 a.m. CT on ESPN2 in the quarterfinals of the AAC Tournament.

SMU (27-4 overall, 17-1 in AAC play) vs.  East Carolina (14-17, 6-12)
WHEN: Friday, March 10 at 11 a.m. CT
WHERE: XL Center (Hartford, Connecticut)
SERIES: ECU SMU leads the series 11-4
LAST MEETING: SMU beat ECU 86-46 at Moody Coliseum on February 1

Mustang Trends

After claiming the regular season conference title outright, SMU enters the American Athletic Conference tournament as the top seed.  So the Mustangs got to sit back and watch the first day of action at the XL Center to see whom they might face on Friday. After taking down Temple on Thursday, ECU will face SMU in the quarterfinals Friday at 11 a.m. CT.

SMU’s win streak is now at 13 while it has also won 23 of its last 24 games. The Mustangs dominance on the glass continues, with a rebound margin of +9.8 (first in AAC, second in NCAA). SMU has also continued to defend very well, and have a season scoring defense of 59.4 which is first in the conference and third in the NCAA.  SMU is also shooting a conference leading 47.0 percent from the floor and 40.3 percent from 3-point range.

SMU is also fresh of picking up some individual honors when the conference awards were announced this week. Tim Jankovich was named AAC Coach of the Year and Semi Ojeleye was named the Player of the Year and Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

Ojeleye was also selected to the All-AAC First Team, while Sterling Brown, Ben Moore and Shake Milton received second team nods. Ben Emelogu was also given Co-Sixth Man of the Year honors.    

Scouting East Carolina

In the Pirates 80-69 win over Temple, ECU shot 51 percent from the floor and 48 percent from 3-point range. The Pirates also scored 10 points off turnovers and had 15 second chance points. The Pirates got 27 points off the bench and scored 30 of their 80 points in the paint. Even though ECU only won by 11 points Thursday afternoon, it was clear that Temple was overmatched. ECU led for all but thirty seconds of the game and with the Pirates’ exceptional shooting performance, the Owls seemed unable to get a stop, or to capitalize on the opportunities they had. Temple forced 13 turnovers, but got jut six points off those turnovers.

ECU Players to Watch

F Kentrell Barkley: Led the team with 26 points and 16 rebounds in Thursday’s win over Temple. He was 3-for-6 from 3-point range.

G Elijah Hughes: Coming off the bench for the Pirates, Hughes dropped 17 points on Temple and was 2-for-2 from 3-point range. He was 5-for-7 from the field and was 5-for-6 from the free throw line.

Projected ECU Starters:
G Caleb White
G Jeremy Sheppard  
C Andre Washington
F Kentrell Barkley
F Deng Riak 

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

Matchup to Watch

Kentrell Barkley vs Sterling Brown: Barkley turned in a dominant performance against Temple on Thursday and has been the Pirates’ best player all season long. It will likely be up to Sterling Brown to lock down him down. Barkley is good at getting into the paint, Brown will need to be wary of his ability to knock down the 3-pointer.  Barkley can be a tricky assignment, this also means that with whoever guards him will have to be careful not to get into foul trouble.

Keys to the Game

SMU has had no problem taking care of ECU this season and—not to be over confident—shouldn’t have any trouble with the Pirates on Friday. We’ve seen ECU’s top players turn it up a notch against Temple, but the Owls are by no means on the same level as SMU. As the unquestioned favorite in this one, SMU needs to remember the little things. If SMU continues to defend well and can limit ECU’s second chance opportunities, than it should be a relatively painless afternoon.  

Tim Jankovich March 8

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