(23) SMU (19-5) at Rutgers (10-14)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, February 14, 7 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: RAC (8,000) -- Piscataway, New Jersey. Television: ESPNews. Home Record: SMU 13-0, Rutgers 9-7. Away Record: SMU 4-4, Rutgers 1-7. Neutral Record: SMU 2-1, Rutgers 0-0. Conference Record: SMU 8-3, Rutgers 4-7. Series Record: SMU leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: Ranked in the Top 25 for the first time since 1985, the No. 23 SMU Mustangs turn their attention to the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers for an American Athletic Conference clash at the RAC.
The game was originally scheduled for Thursday, but moved due to inclement weather.
SMU has won three straight and eight of its last nine games overall, and that includes Saturday's 76-55 rout over then seventh-ranked Cincinnati, its first win over a top-10 opponent since 1987. In fact, the Mustangs are 3-1 against Top 25 teams, as they also beat then-No. 22 Memphis on Feb. 1 (87-72) and then-No. 17 Connecticut on Jan. 4 (76-65).
Meanwhile, Rutgers has endured a trying season but has picked up wins in two of its last three outings. The Scarlet Knights traveled to Tampa this past weekend and came away with a 79-69 win over USF. Following this tilt, they'll pay a visit to 13th-ranked Louisville on Sunday.
These teams met for the first time ever on Jan. 21 in Dallas, where SMU claimed a 70-56 home win
Coach Larry Brown's Mustangs are playing their best basketball of the season, and they simply dominated Cincinnati over the weekend. They shot 54.3 percent from the floor in that game and also made 22-of-25 free throws (.880). They enjoyed a 35-8 advantage in bench points and also outscored the Bearcats in the paint, 34-18. On the defensive end, the Mustangs held Cincinnati to 35.4- percent shooting and forced 19 turnovers. Nick Russell and Ben Moore shared team-high scoring honors with 15 points apiece, while Nic Moore scored 14 and Cannen Cunningham finished with 11 points off the bench.
SMU ranks second in the nation in field-goal percentage defense (.367) to go along with a +6.8 rebounding margin. Sharpshooter Nic Moore, a 45.4-percent 3- point shooter (49-of-108), leads the team with 13.8 ppg, followed by Markus Kennedy with 11.9 ppg and a team-best 7.3 rpg. Ben Moore (7.0 ppg) is the reigning AAC Rookie of the Week for the third time this season as he averaged 12.5 points, 5.5 rebound and 2.5 blocks in the Mustangs' two wins last week.
On the other side of the floor, Myles Mack leads the way for Rutgers with 15.8 ppg. Top rebounder Kadeem Jack is next in line (14.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg), followed by J.J. Moore (11.7 ppg). On the season, the Scarlet Knights are shooting 43.9 percent from the floor while giving up an identical shooting percentage on the defensive end, and their rebounding (+0.0) and turnover (+0.3) margins are also virtually identical.
In the win over USF, it was Jack who came through with a career-high 31 points to help lift RU to its first road win of the season. He did most of his damage at the free-throw line, converting all 13 of his attempts. Jack was instrumental early on, scoring seven points during a 15-2 spurt to open the game. As a team, Scarlet Knights went on to shoot 21-of-26 at the charity stripe in addition to holding a 37-30 rebounding advantage. Mack and Wally Judge (eight rebounds) joined Jack in double figures with 15 and 10 points, respectively.
The Mustangs have been on a tear, but it is worth noting that most of their success has come at home, where they are 13-0 and boast a +21.2 scoring margin. They figure to get a tougher test from a Rutgers team that has played well of late and will be on its home floor, but in the end, SMU is simply too talented to fall in this matchup.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: SMU 75, Rutgers 66
02/14 10:41:46 ET