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Sunday, September 24, 2023

Men's Basketball

Rematching No. 19 SMU Mustangs in Hofheinz

With a win over No. 19 SMU the Cougars will secure third in the American Athletic Conference. | Ajani Stewart/ The Cougar

The Cougars will be facing off against their highest ranked opponent of the season on Saturday in a rematch against the No. 19 Southern Methodist University Mustangs in Hofheinz Pavilion.

The Mustangs ran all over the Cougars the last time they met in a lopsided 85-64 routing. SMU outperformed the Cougars in every way possible. They had 12 more rebounds, one less turnover and had a better shooting percentage from both the field and from the distance.

There were also four Mustangs who scored double-digits.

In comparison, the Cougars were led by redshirt senior guard Damyean Dotson with 25 points while redshirt junior guard Rob Gray had a quiet performance with 16. Both excelled from beyond the arc, Dotson with six and Gray with four.

The biggest detractor for the Cougars was the lack of presence from the rest of the team.

The frontcourt of redshirt senior forward Danrad “Chicken” Knowles and redshirt senior Kyle Meyer put up only six points and seven rebounds together. Sophomore guard Galen Robinson Jr. had only two rebounds, four assists, and five points.

If the Cougars are going to pull off the upset, somebody is going to have to take some of the weight off Dotson’s and Gray’s shoulders.

Two players from the bench have had significant impact recently.

Junior guard Wes VanBeck has had his moments of brilliance throughout the season. VanBeck has started a few times so far and has proven his ability beyond the arc. With SMU focusing on Dotson and Gray, if VanBeck can make his presence known from 3-point territory, he’ll open the court up for the other playmakers.

Freshman guard Armoni Brooks made his first career start this season against Tulane where he put up 11 points with two 3-pointers. Brooks may not be as tested as upperclassman VanBeck, but as a freshman, he has had his moments.

The Cougars are on a five-game winning streak, led by two record-setting performances by Dotson. Against UCF, he put up a career-high 31 points, and in the next game against Tulane, he put up 32 points. Gray is also performing at his best, putting up 28 points in the most recent game against Tulsa.

From a statistics standpoint, this game features the two best offenses in the American Athletic Conference. SMU scores 72.8 points per game and Houston scores 70.7.

Defensively is where the biggest discrepancy is. SMU ranks No. 1 and Houston ranks No. 4. If the Cougar frontcourt struggles to defend the paint, the score may quickly get out of hand.

In the end, the match will be decided from whoever is consistent from 3-point territory. Last time they met, both teams combined for 27 total 3-pointers for 81 points, more than half of 149 total points scored.

SMU is coming off a huge victory over No. 11 Cincinnati and is looking to maintain its position atop the American. The Cougars are in third with one game ahead of fourth place Memphis.

Tipoff is scheduled for Saturday at 6 p.m. in Hofheinz Pavilion. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN2.

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