Dallas, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - The regular season title in the American Athletic Conference is up for grabs on Sunday afternoon, as the Tulsa Golden Hurricane takes on the 22nd-ranked SMU Mustangs at Moody Coliseum.
The Mustangs got off to a bit of a rough start this season, losing three of the first five outings, but have come around to become one of the top performers in the AAC. The team sports a league record of 14-3, same as Tulsa, but unlike the Golden Hurricane the Ponies are again a nationally-ranked group.
The Mustangs have been out of action for a full week, last sizing up UConn on the road and losing to the Huskies, 81-73. The defeat, which snapped a five- game win streak, was unexpected given the fact the Huskies lost the first meeting of the season on Valentine's Day, 73-55.
As for Tulsa, it could have taken a significant steps toward securing the regular-season crown on Wednesday night, but the team saw a four-game win streak come to an end with a loss versus Cincinnati at home, 56-47.
According to SMU sources, the Golden Hurricane owns a 30-15 advantage in the all-time series, the squads being former competitors in the Western Athletic Conference as well. However, Tulsa lost the first meeting of the season last month, 68-57, at home.
In one of the worst performances of the season for the Golden Hurricane, they shot just 34.0 percent from the floor and a mere 4-of-13 at the free-throw line (.308), both of those efforts weaker than their 46.7 percent accuracy behind the 3-point line, en route to the loss versus the Bearcats. Rashad Ray tallied a team-best 15 points off the bench, thanks to an impressive 5-of-6 shooting out on the perimeter, followed by James Woodard with 12 points in defeat.
Woodard stands as the top overall scorer for Tulsa with his 14.5 ppg, stemming from 70 3-point conversions over the course of 28 games. His efforts from the perimeter have been so important that the rest of his teammates combined have knocked down just 82 triples. Shaquille Harrison is responsible for another 13.7 ppg and is first on the unit with 102 assists, which somewhat makes up for the fact that he has converted just 20.5 percent of his long-distance tries.
The Mustangs failed to convert a single 3-pointer in the first half against UConn the last time out, setting the tone for a mediocre outing by SMU on the road at the XL Center. The visitors finished the contest 4-of-14 beyond the arc and 45.5 percent from the floor, but it wasn't enough to keep up with the Huskies up north. Markus Kennedy scored 18 points and pulled down nine rebounds in a reserve role, followed by Yanick Moreira and Sterling Brown with 14 and 13 points, respectively.
Under the direction of legendary head coach Larry Brown, the Mustangs are putting most of their effort into tightening up at the defensive end of the floor this season. In conference play the program has allowed just 58.4 ppg to team shooting 39.0 percent from the floor and 31.9 percent behind the 3-point line. At the offensive end, Nic Moore has posted 13.6 ppg and Kennedy another 11.6 ppg to keep the squad rolling along with 69.0 ppg.