GAME NOTES: The Utah Runnin' Utes will try to hand the SMU Mustangs their first loss at Moody Coliseum this season when the two take the floor for a non-conference tilt on Wednesday.
The Utes are riding a three-game winning streak into Dallas after their 66-54 win over Wright State on Saturday. Utah opened up its 2012-13 campaign with a rout of Division III Willamette before being surprised by Sacramento State, which left the Jon M. Huntsman Center with a three-point win. Coach Larry Krystkowiak then led his squad to three double-digit wins, including decisions over Idaho State (57-46) and Central Michigan (67-51). Utah is outscoring its opponents by 18.6 ppg and winning the rebounding battle by an average of 10.6 boards per contest.
Even with Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown on the sidelines, SMU has exceeded expectations early on this season. SMU improved to 6-1 on Sunday with a 62-61 win over Missouri State in the third-place game of the Hoops for Hope Classic. The Mustangs experienced their only setback the day before as Arkansas-Little Rock handed them a 13-point loss. Prior to the tourney, SMU reeled off five wins in a row to tip-off Brown's tenure at the school. The five-game streak included a 15-point win over Loyola Marymount, three-point victories on the road over TCU and Texas State, and a 13-point win over Rider. SMU has outscored its opponents by eight ppg under Brown's watch.
This will be the fourth meeting between these schools. Utah won all three previous meetings which took place during the 1996-97 season when the Keith Van Horn led Utes were ranked in the top-10.
Utah had a defensive lapse in its lone loss of the season. Sacramento State was the only one of its opponents to eclipse the 70-point mark and beat the Utes in the rebounding battle (38-34). The Hornets also knocked down 10-of-23 from 3-point range (43.5 percent) in the contest. The rest of the Utes' opposition have combined to make only 20-of-86 from beyond the arc (23.3 percent). The team is sub-par on the offensive end of the floor. Utah is averaging 65.3 ppg on 45.5 percent shooting from the floor versus its four Division I opponents. Freshman forward Jordan Loveridge paced the team with 22 points and nine rebounds in its recent win over Wright State. Center Dallin Bachynski added 16 points and two blocks while Jarred DuBois chipped in 12 points, seven assists, and six boards from the other forward slot. All three are averaging in double-figures with Bachynski at the head of the class with 13.2 points and nine rebounds per contest.
The Mustangs are coming off a stellar shooting performance in which they netted 51.4 percent of their field goals to survive a thriller versus Missouri State. SMU needed to convert a high percentage of its shots to overcome 16 turnovers and a narrow, 30-28 loss in the rebounding battle. Brown's squad could have coasted past the Bears instead of hanging one for a one-point decision, but it converted only 23-of-37 at the charity stripe in the contest. Nick Russell stepped up to lead the team with 25 points, while Jalen Jones contributed 17 points. Russell slightly leads Jones in the scoring column, as they average 16 and 15.4 ppg, respectively. Ryan Manual is also scoring in double figures consistently with a 13.6 ppg average, while Jones is the top rebounder with 6.7 boards per game.
Although Utah is representing the Pac-12, it showed it was not up to par in 2011-12, its inaugural season in the league, by finishing 6-25 overall. Last season, SMU lost to Oklahoma State in double-overtime and Ole Miss by two points in its only action versus BCS conference opposition. With the legendary Brown now occupying the most important seat on the Mustangs' bench, SMU has a great chance of ruining Utah's first road trip.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: SMU 67, Utah 62
11/28 10:33:31 ET
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