Can SMU turn things around in conference

A less-than-stellar non-conference showing has some in the Mustangs camp fearing a long road ahead now that Conference USA play is upon us. Can SMU turn things around? The answers are inside!

GETTING INSIDE 

A less-than-stellar non-conference showing has some in the Mustangs camp fearing a long road ahead now that Conference USA play is upon us.

  SMU's Jan. 2 loss at Texas State, a team it had beaten 94-86 less than a month prior, leaves the Mustangs with a 5-7 record heading into a Jan. 6 league opener in El Paso, Texas, against a talent-rich UTEP Miners team. 

Head coach Matt Doherty's team hasn't shown much depth and appears to becoming even more top-heavy with senior guard Derek Williams, the team leader in assists and scoring, being the one consistent bright spot throughout the season. 

Williams started the new year off with a 29-point outburst in a losing effort Jan. 2 at Texas State. 

Getting more consistency in alternative scoring options will be a must if SMU wants to improve on its 3-13 and last place league showing from a year ago.


NOTES, QUOTES 

--Heading into the new year, SMU was holding opponents to a 40.6 field goal percentage in wins. In losses, opponents were shooting at a 49.5 percent clip, including 42.5 from 3-point range.

--SMU is 4-0 this year when hitting six or more 3-pointers.


ON THE SPOT: There isn't a team in C-USA with a worse assist-to-turnover ratio than the 0.7 mark SMU has (122 assists, 168 turnovers). Guard Derek Williams, the team's leading scorer, is the only Mustang with a positive assist to turnover ration (38 to 28).


STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

SEASON RECAP: Winning four of five in one good stretch early in the season was the lone bright spot, even if none of the wins were against very good teams. SMU has shown flashes, but doesn't really have a signature win in non-league play to hang its hat on.

PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- G Paul McCoy, G Derek Williams, G-F Justin Haynes, F Papa Dia, F Mouhammad Faye. Key Subs -- G Ryan Harp, G Rodney Clinkscales, F Frank Otis.


GAME REVIEW: 
Northeastern 73, SMU 62
SMU 71, Army 63 
Texas State 91, SMU 86

GAME PREVIEW:
at UTEP, Wednesday, Jan. 6
vs. North Carolina Central, Saturday, Jan. 9
vs. Tulsa, Wednesday, Jan. 13
vs. UAB, Saturday, Jan.. 16
at Rice, Wednesday, an. 20

IN FOCUS: For a team that has yet to establish itself, starting C-USA play against a UTEP Miners team that leads the league in scoring margin at plus 18.6 is a tall order. SMU's shot at competing in the road conference opener on Jan. 6 stems from cutting down on turnovers and getting back in transition defense, two things they haven't been great at so far. 

ROSTER REPORT:

--F Papa Dia scored a season-high 19 points and had career highs in rebounds (14) and blocked shots (4) in a Dec. 30 win over Army. 
--Sophomore G Rodney Clinkscales made his first start of the season Dec. 30 against Army. He followed that with a three-minute game Jan. 2 against Texas State.
--G Mike Walker hit his 77th career 3-pointer Jan. 2 vs. Texas State, moving him within two of cracking the school's top 15 in career 3-pointers made.


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