SMU (15-4) at Houston (11-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Sunday, January 26, 3 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Hofheinz Pavilion (8,479) -- Houston, Texas. Television: ESPNews. Home Record: SMU 10-0, Houston 8-2. Away Record: SMU 3-3, Houston 2-4. Neutral Record: SMU 2-1, Houston 1-2. Conference Record: SMU 4-2, Houston 3-3. Series Record: Houston leads, 46-25.
GAME NOTES: The Houston Cougars limp into a Lone Star State showdown with the SMU Mustangs, as the two American Athletic Conference foes square off on Sunday afternoon at Hofheinz Pavilion.
SMU has much more momentum than Houston entering this bout. The Mustangs have won four straight contests to improve to 15-4 overall and 4-2 in conference play. They have split their six true road tests this season, but will have another chance to improve in that area on Tuesday at South Florida.
Houston was run out of the gym by Memphis on Thursday, falling in an 82-59 final to the nationally-ranked Tigers. The Cougars have lost three of their last four games, falling to 11-8 overall and 3-3 in conference. They are a solid 8-2 on their home floor, but they visit Connecticut and Rutgers in their next two tilts.
These in-state foes bring their rivalry over from Conference USA, where they met 16 times after SMU joined the league in 2005. The Cougars have won the last three meetings, and lead the all-time series by a count of 46-25.
Markus Kennedy logged a double-double consisting of 18 points and 10 rebounds, to go with four blocks to lead SMU to a 70-55 win over Rutgers last time out. The Mustangs forced 18 turnovers in the contest, and held the Scarlet Knights to just 32.7 percent shooting.
Under Larry Brown's tutelage, SMU has transformed into one of the best defensive teams in the country. The Mustangs rank 13th nationally in scoring defense (59.9 ppg) and second in opponents field goal percentage (.357). On the other side, they do not score at an overwhelming pace (71.8 ppg), but they lead the AAC in field goal percentage (.489). Nic Moore (12.6 ppg, 4.6 apg) and Kennedy (11.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg) are the only players on the roster averaging in double figures. Moore finished with only eight points on 2-of-7 shooting against Rutgers, but he did tally five assists.
The Cougars allowed Memphis to shoot 58.9 percent from the floor, while turning the ball over 18 times on Thursday. Houston also sank only 42.6 percent of its own field goal tries, including a dismal 2-of-12 showing from 3-point range.
Houston is not as defensively dominant as SMU, but it is still a solid squad at that end of the floor. The Cougars are letting up 58.8 ppg on 42.4 percent shooting to their opponents. TaShawn Thomas (16.5 ppg, 8.6 rpg) is a powerful force down low, ranking in the top five in the AAC in scoring and rebounding. He finished with a team-high 14 points and seven rebounds against Memphis, but he made good on only 2-of-6 shots from the free-throw line. Danuel House (12.9 ppg) and Jherrod Stiggers (10.4 ppg) are also averaging in double figures, although each is shooting below 40 percent from the field.
Due to their ability to slow teams defensively, the Mustangs are a squad that travels fairly well. Expect them to key in on Thomas and force the Cougars to rely on shots from outside the paint, en route to a solid victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: SMU 66, Houston 61
01/26 10:34:19 ET