SMU faces biggest test yet when it hosts Michigan Tuesday

Keith Frazier is part of a balanced SMU attack that features five players averaging double figures.

Rick Osentoski

With a Big Ten opponent waiting in the wings, acting head coach Tim Jankovich wouldn’t let SMU overlook its last opponent.

The 19th-ranked Mustangs’ largest margin of victory in nearly two decades suggests they’re ready to move forward.

With Jankovich’s cautioning words of a trap game left behind, SMU can finally look ahead to its biggest test yet when it hosts Michigan on Tuesday night.

SMU (6-0) searches for its best start since opening the 1997-98 season 10-0. The Mustangs have a chance to match that mark if they win the final four of a five-game homestand leading up to their American Athletic Conference opener at Tulsa on Dec. 29.

But one game at a time is the mantra, and SMU didn’t take Jankovich’s warning lightly Saturday. The Mustangs plastered New Hampshire 98-44 for the program’s biggest victory since a 90-34 win over Division III Hardin-Simmons on Nov. 23, 1996.

SMU, which had won its previous three games by a combined 15 points, was led by Keith Frazier’s 23 points while freshman Malik Milton broke out with 20 off the bench.

Frazier made 7 of 12 shots and 6 of 10 from 3-point range, matching his career-high point total while grabbing eight rebounds. He bounced back from a scoreless effort in Wednesday’s 75-70 victory over TCU.

"It’s no secret Keith is an outstanding shooter," said Jankovich, who is filling in while Larry Brown serves a nine-game suspension. "One of the worst things you can do is make a big thing of a bad shooting night."

Frazier is part of a balanced SMU attack that features five players averaging double figures. Reigning AAC Player of the Year Nic Moore has averaged 15.0 points while playing through a broken pinkie finger on his shooting hand.

The Mustangs lead the AAC in 3-point percentage (44.1) and are tied with Houston atop the conference with a 52.4 field-goal percentage.

The defense, though, stood out against New Hampshire. SMU held the Wildcats to 26.7 percent shooting, including 16.7 percent from 3-point range.

"It was without question our best defensive effort," Jankovich said.

The Mustangs are 4-0 at home and 38-3 in Dallas since the start of the 2013-14 season.

Michigan (6-2) heads into its second true road game having won four straight since a 74-60 loss to then-No. 18 Connecticut on Nov. 25. The Wolverines have lost seven of their last eight games against ranked opponents, the outlier a 64-57 win over No. 24 Ohio State on Feb. 22.

But the Wolverines have taken care of business this month, beating North Carolina State 66-59 in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Dec. 1 before routing Houston Baptist 82-57 on Saturday.

Caris LeVert finished with 25 points and eight rebounds against the Huskies while Duncan Robinson added 19 points off the bench. Robinson knocked down 5 of 9 3-pointers against Houston Baptist, and that actually lowered his percentage from deep to a ridiculous 59.5.

"Everyone keeps telling me to keep shooting, even if I’m missing," he said. "Today, even the parking-lot attendant reminded me to keep taking my shot."

LeVert, Robinson, Aubrey Dawkins and Derrick Walton Jr. are shooting a combined 67 of 122 (54.9 percent) from beyond the arc this season. Walton, however, sat out against Houston Baptist with a sprained ankle and is uncertain for Tuesday.

The Wolverines couldn’t hit anything inside or outside the arc last Dec. 20 against SMU, shooting 31.5 percent overall and going 8 of 36 from 3-point range in a 62-51 loss in Ann Arbor.

Moore had 17 points for SMU while LeVert finished with four points and five turnovers.