No. 20 Houston will need to rely on defensive identity to slow down SMU offense
The No. 20 Cougars are in Dallas to take on the SMU Mustangs for the second time this season on Saturday afternoon from the Moody Coliseum.
Houston enters the game winners of three straight and 14 of its last 16, while SMU comes into the contest off a 79-75 victory over Connecticut.
The Cougars’ game on Saturday will be the third one in the span of six days, and the physical and mental drain on the athletes has taken a toll, but the players don’t want to use the schedule as an excuse.
“It’s been tough, but we want to win the conference,” said junior forward Fabian White Jr. “So, we just got to play hard and forget how our bodies feel.”
Sophomore guard Quentin Grimes has put up strong performances the last few games, scoring in double-figures in four of the last five contests, which includes a 22-point, six-rebound and five-assist showing in the win against USF.
Grimes has moved back into the team’s scoring leader with 12.64 points per game. Redshirt freshman guard Caleb Mills is right behind him with 12.56 points per contest.
The Mustangs are 17-6 in the 2019-20 season and are 6-4 against the American Athletic Conference. All six wins have been at home, and they have not lost a conference game this season.
SMU has the No. 1 scoring offense and the No. 1 field-goal percentage (45.8 percent) in the AAC. The Cougars, however, have the No. 1 field-goal percentage defense, holding opposing teams to only 36.9 percent shooting from the field.
“They get out in transition, push the pace and are a good transition 3-point shooting team, so we just got to be ready to go from the jump,” sophomore forward Cedrick Alley Jr. said.
The team is led by sophomore guard Kendric Davis, who is averaging 15.9 points, 7.3 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game.
“He’s just dynamic, not many point guards can get 10 assists and 20 points in a game.” head coach Kelvin Sampson told the Houston Roundball Review on Thursday.
Keys to the game
The Cougars defeated the Mustangs 71-62 in the Jan. 15 meeting, holding SMU to only 40.3 percent from the field.
For some of the Houston players, the answer for success is consistency and leaning on their identity.
“I think we got to be locked in both halves,” freshman guard Marcus Sasser said. “I think it’s going to be a big challenge for us on the defensive end, so I’m going in with a defensive mindset.”
The game will be shown on ESPNU and can be heard on KPRC 950 AM at 5 p.m.on Saturday.