Mustangs have the opportunity to seize control of the AAC


Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

A big week just got bigger for the SMU Mustangs Men’s Basketball team.

What was originally thought to be just another AAC conference game against the UConn Huskies has become something much bigger as the Mustangs have the opportunity to seize control of the AAC and impress the NCAA Tournament committee. SMU is still looking for its first win against a BPI Top 50 team and while UConn is ranked 57th in the nation, the victory should still help improve the team’s resume for March Madness.

After defeating then conference leading Tulsa 68-57 on Saturday, the Mustangs were given the opportunity to be alone in first place of the American Athletic Conference when the Golden Hurricane were upset by the UConn Huskies 70-45 on Thursday. But SMU was in no position to celebrate too much as its game with the Houston Cougars ended up being a lot closer than expected later that night.

Despite being down 11 with just over six minutes remaining, the Cougars fought back and cut the lead to four with three minutes remaining. In the end the Mustang’s two best players, Nic Moore and Markus Kennedy, scored the final seven points down the stretch to give the team cushion and avoid the upset.

Saturday the Huskies travel to Dallas with another upset in mind as the team hopes to keep its NCAA tournament hopes alive — also joining them will be the big stage of the national media as ESPN Game Day will be broadcasting from Moody Coliseum.

What should scare SMU fans is that UConn has been the ultimate Jekyll and Hyde team all season. The same Huskies team that dispatched of Tulsa easily on Thursday was also was defeated by Houston for its only win in conference play. Those fears should be put at ease if SMU is able to execute in the halfcourt and find perimeter scoring help for Nic Moore. UConn head coach Kevin Ollie recently moved freshman Daniel Hamilton from small forward to power and while having an extra ball-handler has had its success so far against the bigger Mustangs it could become problematic.

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  • Players to Watch:

    Cannen Cunningham-SMU:

    The senior big man from Arlington, TX may be the least known of the big man trio for Coach Larry Brown and the Mustangs, but he is perhaps the most versatile and could present match-up issues for whoever the Huskies put on him. At 6’10 he has the size to post up and score inside the paint, but he also has the touch to hit an open 10-15 foot jumper as well. His consistency was an issue early in the season but in the last three games he has doubled his scoring output and is averaging 12.6 ppg and serves as the primary go-to scorer on a SMU bench that has thinned out with the suspension of Keith Frazier due to academic issues.

    Rodney Purvis- UConn:

    UConn has been looking for a running mate for guard Ryan Boatright and Purvis, a transfer from NC State, finally has stepped into that role recently for the Huskies. In the last three games the 6’4 sophomore is averaging 14.6ppg and shooting an impressive 50% from the field and has hit one fourth of his three pointers (seven) in that stretch. The biggest concern with Purvis is his inability to shoot free throws well. On the season he is shooting a dismal 50% from the line which could hurt the Huskies in closer games as opponents look to extend the game with late fouling.