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Cougars Knock Off SMU On Road

The Cougars earned a significant victory in their last contest, downing No. 19 UCF, 76-71, to earn their first conference win of the season. Houston has now won three of its last four contests. Tonight's game may prove challenging however, as the Cougars have posted just a 1-5 record away from home.

SMU's Jan. 12th victory over Memphis halted a two-game skid and moved the Mustangs to 1-1 in conference play. The odds are in the Mustangs favor tonight, as they have won eight of their previous nine home games.

This will mark the sixth straight season that Houston and SMU have met on the hardwood. The Cougars hold a 42-23 all-time lead over the Mustangs in a series that dates back to the 1955-56 season.

Houston played exceptionally well at both ends of the floor in its upset of UCF. The Cougars placed four players in double figures. Kirk Van Slyke and Zamal Nixon each tallied 17 points to lead the team. Maurice McNeil and Alandise Harris led a superb bench effort, scoring 15 and 14 points, respectively. The Cougars shot 48.1 percent from the floor and hit 6-of-12 three-pointers. Their real victory came at the defensive end however, as they held UCF to 39.2 percent shooting , including 21.4 percent from downtown. They also forced 16 turnovers. Houston typically allows 68.2 ppg, while scoring 71.5 ppg on 46.4 percent shooting. Adam Brown leads a balanced scoring attack with 14.3 ppg. McNeil is the best all-around Cougar, however, as he leads the team in rebounding (8.6 rpg), is second on the team in scoring (13.5 ppg) and first in blocks (18), while shooting 53.9 percent from the floor. In short, McNeil adds some much needed muscle on in the trenches.

The Mustangs trailed by 14 in the first half against Memphis, but rallied with 17 unanswered points after intermission to earn the 64-58 victory. Defense was the order of the day down the stretch as SMU limited Memphis to 26 second half points. On the night, the Mustangs converted 18 Memphis turnovers into 28 points. Papa Dia scored a game-high 22 points and ripped down 10 boards. He could have used help on the glass, as SMU was outrebounded 35-25 and outscored 32-14 in the paint. Collin Mangrum had a solid night, as he came off the bench to score 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting. Dia and Robert Nyakundi provide a potent one-two punch for the Mustangs, as they average 17.3 and 16.4 ppg, respectively. Dia also helps the team with 8.6 rpg, while shooting 60.6 percent from the floor. SMU wins games in balanced fashion, holding opponents to 61.6 ppg, while scoring 68.1 ppg on 47.9 percent shooting. Their lack of front line depth does hurt them to the tune of a minus-3.1 rebounding margin.

These teams are in for a battle, but the superior SMU defense should help the Mustangs come out alive.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: SMU 78, Houston 70

Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.