Mustangs and Cougars clash in AAC action

Feb 12, 2015 - 3:31 PM Houston, TX ( - The 25th-ranked SMU Mustangs continue their run through the American Athletic Conference, as the battle in-state rival Houston on Thursday night at Hofheinz Pavilion.

Larry Brown's Mustangs have forged their way into the Top-25 with stellar play, winning 17 of their last 19 games to move to 19-5 overall. The team is an impressive 10-2 in conference play and made a statement on Saturday, handing league-leading Tulsa its first AAC loss of the season, a 68-57 road win. SMU is a strong 6-3 on the road this year and has won its last five road games entering this contest.

Kelvin Sampson's first season with the Cougars hasn't gone according to plan. Houston is just 9-13 on the year overall, but has been dismal in conference play, sitting just outside the league cellar with a mere 1-9 AAC mark. The team had a brief two-game win streak halted last week by Tulsa, 57-44.

Houston holds a 47-28 lead in the all-time series with SMU, but the Mustangs are seeking the regular-season sweep after making light work of the Cougars at Moody Coliseum back on Jan. 24, 80-59.

The Mustangs put the defensive clamps on the conference leaders last weekend, holding Tulsa to a mere .283 shooting effort, and pulling within a half game of the Golden Hurricane in the conference standings with the win. A 15-0 second-half run was the key to victory. Nic Moore led the charge, netting a game-high 23 points. Cannen Cunningham was an efficient 8-of-10 from the floor and added 16 points off the bench. Yanick Moreira was instrumental in the win as well, posting a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds.

SMU isn't an offensive juggernaut by any stretch, but the team's 69.4 ppg comes on a highly efficient .485 shooting. Nic Moore is the straw that stirs the drink, averaging a team-high 14.5 ppg, along with a conference-best 5.5 apg. Moreira shoots a team-best .584 from the floor and averages 11.8 points and a team-high 6.7 rebounds per game. Markus Kennedy has only played in 14 of the team's 24 games this season, but does add some scoring depth with his 10.5 ppg.

Houston faced the same Tulsa team in its last game, but the result wasn't as successful as SMU's. The Cougars came out on the wrong end of a 13-point decision, thanks in large part to a dreadful .302 shooting performance. The Cougars were also outrebounded 38-31 in the game. Only Danrad Knowles netted double figures in the loss, finishing with 10 points. L.J. Rose added nine points, followed by Eric Weary Jr.'s eight points. Leading scorer Jherrod Stiggers had a rough outing, going just 2-of-11 from the floor and finishing with a mere six points.

The Cougars have struggled big time offensively. The team is averaging a modest 65.2 ppg, but has managed to shoot an ugly .384 overall. In addition, Houston is outrebounded by just under three boards per game. Three of the team's five starters are averaging double figures in the scoring column, led by Stiggers' 14.6 ppg. Knowles and Devonta Pollard round out the top scoring threats with 10.8 and 10.2 ppg, respectively.

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