SMU (15-16) vs. UAB (15-16)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, March 13, 4:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: BOK Center (19,199) -- Tulsa, Oklahoma. Television: None. Home Record: SMU 7-7, UAB 11-4. Away Record: SMU 6-7, UAB 4-10. Neutral Record: SMU 2-2, UAB 0-2. Conference Record: SMU 5-11, UAB 7-9. Series Record: UAB leads, 8-2.
GAME NOTES: Larry Brown will try to add another trophy to his mantle as his 10th-seeded SMU Mustangs begin their postseason with a bout against the seventh-seeded UAB Blazers in the first round of the Conference USA Tournament at the BOK Center.
The winner of this game will advance to play the second-seeded Southern Miss Golden Eagles.
Brown's Mustangs lost for the second time in three outings in their regular-season finale as they dropped a 76-63 decision to Texas-El Paso at home. Cannen Cunningham contributed 15 points and five rebounds. Ryan Manuel scored 14 points. Nick Russell chipped in 10 points and five assists for SMU, which began the regular season with eight wins in nine games. Brown's teams are 41-19 (.683) in neutral site games. He is 2-2 (.500) in neutral site games with SMU. He is one of just four current Division I head coaches to have been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. SMU could be playing in its final C-USA game, as it will join the league currently known as the Big East this summer.
Russell paces SMU on the season with 14.2 ppg on 41.5 percent efficiency from the floor. Jalen Jones is the second-leading scorer at 14.1 ppg and also pulls down a team-best 7.6 rpg. Jones had scored 20 points or more on seven separate occasions this season. The Mustangs are leading the conference in free-throw percentage (.745). They have outscored their opposition by an average of 1.9 ppg on the season.
In the only meeting between these schools this season, UAB edged the Mustangs, 74-69, to improve to 8-2 all-time versus SMU. SMU shot a blistering 57.7 percent from the floor, but Rod Rucker and Fahro Alihodzic combined for 38 points and 17 rebounds in the victory.
UAB will counter SMU's Hall of Fame coach with the rookie Jerod Haase, who guided the team to a 15-16 record during his first regular season at the helm of the program. The Blazers are fifth in the C-USA in team scoring with an average of 72.2 ppg, but they are fourth to last on the defensive end, where they give up 71.5 ppg. The steady scoring has come through unselfish team play that yields 16.3 assists per outing, which is the 12th best average in the nation. UAB dropped an 86-71 decision at Memphis to fall below the .500 mark in its regular-season finale.
Against Memphis, Jordan Swing scored 19 points and grabbed seven boards and Rod Rucker had 16 points for the Blazers, who ended the regular season with two straight losses. Rucker (14.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg) and Swing (14.1 ppg) will be the catalyst of a UAB run if it occurs. Alihodzic, Robert Williams and Terence Jones all play vital roles in Haase's system as well.
This one could go either way as UAB holds an edge in talent but SMU's head coach will give it more than a fighting chance. The Mustangs need a big performance out of Jones, who has shown he is capable of taking over games but has failed to do so consistently.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UAB 74, SMU 72
03/13 11:11:37 ET