(Photo Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics)
The SMU Mustangs travel to Tempe on Saturday to take on the Arizona State Sun Devils. This is Arizona State’s first action since edging Vanderbilt 73-67 in the consolation game of the Gulf Coast Showcase. Promise Amukamara was the star of that game, dropping an impressive 21 points to go along with five rebounds and three steals. The Sun Devils (5-1) were not particularly great on defense, allowing Vanderbilt to shoot 61% on the night.
After a rough 1-2 start, SMU (4-3) has won three of its last four, with that only loss coming to a USC team that’s receiving votes in the USA Today Top 25 Coaches Poll. Gabrielle Wilkins leads the Mustangs with 11.8 points per game after missing the first two games of the season, while Destynee Hives-McCray leads in total points with 82 on the season (11.7 points per game).
Keys to the Game
-Attack the Paint
With their leading scorer Sophie Brunner in foul trouble early, the Sun Devils were forced to resort to wing scoring, and excelled. Promise Amukamara went off for her best game of the season, cutting into the lane and finishing at the basket on multiple occasions. A repeat performance from Amukamara and the other perimeter players will boost the Arizona State offense.
-Take Advantage of Inexperience
Arizona State has capitalized off of steals and fast breaks so far this season, and will look to continue to apply pressure against an extremely young SMU squad. The youngest in the American Conference, SMU has five freshmen on the roster along with two other players who did not play for the Mustangs last season. This inexperience leads to mistakes and Arizona State will look to exploit that throughout the game.
So far this season, Arizona State ranks third in the Pac-12 in scoring defense, allowing just 59.7 points per game. That defense can take advantage of a stagnant SMU offense, that ranks just ninth out of 11 teams in the American Conference in scoring offense with just 62.1 points per game. If the Sun Devils remain stout on defense, this game could be over early.
X-Factor: The X-factor for tonight’s game is how effective the Sun Devils will be at getting the ball into the post. Whether it be Sophie Brunner (12.3 points per game) or Kelsey Moos (9.7 points per game) down low, the Sun Devils have been very successful when getting the ball down low this season. Arizona State needs to attempt to isolate their post players on the block and look for some easy buckets.
Prediction: SMU has looked very hot and cold so far this season, and Saturday night will be another of their cold games against a tough ASU defense. If Arizona State can get anything from the bench, this one will be an easy double-digit victory for the Sun Devils in Tempe. Tip-off is at 3:00 p.m.