SMU (8-1) at Rhode Island (2-7)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 15, 2 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Ryan Center (7,657) -- Kingston, Rhode Island. Television: OSN. Home Record: SMU 4-0, URI 1-3. Away Record: SMU 3-0, URI 1-2. Neutral Record: SMU 1-1, URI 0-2. Conference Record: SMU 0-0, URI 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: With Hall of Fame head coach Larry Brown at the helm, the SMU Mustangs are off to their best start since the 2006-07 season. They'll try to push their mark to 9-1 on Saturday with a meeting against the struggling Rhode Island Rams.
The Mustangs, winners of three in a row, haven't played since beating Hofstra, 73-47, exactly two weeks ago. This is the second leg of a three-game road trip for SMU, which has made big news off the court since its last victory. On Dec. 7, the school announced it has accepted an invitation to join the Big East Conference in all sports.
Balance has been the key for the Mustangs this season. They have had four players post double digits in five of their nine contests this year and are led by Jalen Jones' 15.8 points and 8.3 rebounds a game. Nick Russell (15.1) and Ryan Manuel (13.0) are also averaging double digits in scoring, while Shawn Williams (9.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg) has been a key contributor in the starting lineup. Sophomore Cannen Cunningham is averaging 9.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per outing.
Brown has stressed aggressive offensive play, and his philosophy is working. SMU has thrived at the charity stripe this season and is currently seventh in the NCAA for most made foul shots per game with 19.4, and 16th in attempts at 26.2. In fact, SMU has only attempted fewer than 20 free throws one time this season, and that came against Hofstra.
The Rams failed to build off their second win of the season on Dec. 1 versus Vermont, and lost five days later to Providence, 72-57. Jordan Hare paced URI with 14 points. Mike Powell and Nikola Malesevic added 12 points apiece, and Xavier Munford chipped in with 10. Rhode Island shot 38.5 percent from the field, and hit just 3-of-18 from beyond the arc.
Munford (17.9 ppg) leads the Atlantic 10 Conference in scoring this season, while Malesevic is second on the team at 12.6 ppg. Hare averages 2.7 blocks per affair, which is in the top-20 nationally, all part of a team that has made a big improvement on defense when compared to last season. URI ranked 321st out of 339 teams in scoring defense last year (75.5 ppg), but this season it is allowing 10.2 points fewer while holding foes to 41.2 percent shooting from the field.
The Mustangs have already won three non-conference road games this year, which is the first time they've accomplished that feat since the 2003-04 season. The school record is four victories, which occurred during the 1991-92 campaign. Despite being one of the youngest and least experienced teams in the nation, SMU continues to impress and the Mustangs should come out on top in this first-ever meeting against the Rams.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: SMU 75, Rhode Island 69
12/15 10:30:33 ET