Published January 08, 2015
Storrs, CT (SportsNetwork.com) - Two of the American Athletic Conference's best will square off at Gampel Pavilion on Sunday afternoon, as the 21st- ranked Connecticut Huskies play host to the SMU Mustangs.
SMU has been outstanding during Larry Brown's second season as head coach, as it has won 21 of its 27 games overall, which includes a 10-4 mark in the AAC. The Mustangs were recently bounced from the Top 25 following a Feb. 16 loss at Temple (71-64), but they got back on track with a 68-64 win versus Houston on Wednesday and have now won five of their last six.
UConn has been hot of late with wins in four straight to slide up to the No. 21 ranking in the latest poll, with its most recent victory coming in convincing fashion at Temple on Thursday, 68-55. The Huskies are 21-5 this season, a half-game behind SMU in the league standings (9-4) and 13-2 on their home floor.
SMU defeated UConn in Dallas back on Jan. 4, 74-65, and has now won both meetings in the all-time series.
The Mustangs went into halftime of their most recent bout leading by two and managed to hold on down the stretch for the four-point victory over Houston. They shot a solid 45.1 percent from the field, while holding to Cougars to only 39.3 percent shooting, and they also earned extra possessions by winning the rebounding battle, 41-29. Nic Moore knocked down all six of his free-throw attempts on his way to 16 points, and while he was the only player in double figures, Shawn Williams, Ben Moore and Ryan Manuel scored eight points apiece.
On the season, SMU has the nation's 13th-best field-goal percentage (.493) and scores 72.5 ppg, and on top of that it also plays outstanding defense, allowing just 61.6 ppg, while ranking second in the country in field-goal percentage defense (.371). Moore logs team highs in points (14.1 ppg) and assists (4.9) with strong percentages from the field (.482), 3-point range (.452) and the foul line (.844). Markus Kennedy is a mainstay in the paint with 11.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.4 bpg and 1.4 spg.
The Huskies had no problem overcoming their road surroundings their last time out, as they shot 44.9 percent from the field and 22-of-26 from the free-throw line while forcing Temple into just 33.9 percent shooting and 16 turnovers in the 13-point victory. Shabazz Napier was the catalyst in the triumph with 17 points, knocking down all 11 of his free-throw tries in the process, while also chipping in elsewhere with 12 rebounds and seven assists. Ryan Boatright (14 points), DeAndre Daniels (13) and Amida Brimah (10) were also integral assets in the win.
Much like SMU, UConn has experienced plenty of success on both ends of the court this season, as it outshoots its opponents from the filed, 46.1 percent to 38.9 percent, while sporting positive margins in terms of scoring (+12.0), rebounding (+1.8) and turnovers (+1.9). Napier is one of the nation's elite multi-faceted guards, as he not only leads the team in scoring (17.9 ppg) also contributes 6.1 rpg, 5.5 apg and 1.8 spg. Daniels brings 13.2 ppg and 5.4 rpg to the table, while Boatright adds 12.5 ppg and 3.6 apg to the mix.