SMU-Gonzaga Preview

BY foxsports • November 16, 2014

After only two seasons under coach Larry Brown, SMU earned its first preseason ranking in 30 years.

After their first game of the season, they're set to put that ranking to the test as the No. 22 Mustangs visit 13th-ranked Gonzaga on Monday night.

SMU beat Lamar 93-54 on Friday on the strength of its interior presence. Ben Moore and Yanick Moreira combined for 41 points and shot 17 of 21, while fellow big man Cannen Cunningham scored 15 points off the bench.

Nic Moore had only six points but should again play a major role for the Broncos after leading them with 13.6 points per game last season.

Brown's team is playing without forward Markus Kennedy, who sat on the bench in street clothes against Lamar with no official world when he could become academically eligible. Kennedy averaged 12.4 points and 7.1 rebounds last season.

The Mustangs also don't have top recruit Emmanuel Mudiay, who's playing in China after deciding to play professional last summer instead of enroll at SMU.

Brown, though, is still eager for Monday's showdown.

"All in all, we have a win at home," he said. "Get ready to play one of the better programs in the country in a real difficult place to play against a great team.

"I'm anxious to see how we compete and I'm hopeful we'll be prepared to play."

Gonzaga and its raucous arena should help provide the kind of test Brown is looking for. The Bulldogs have won 26 consecutive home games and 43 of 44, with the only defeat coming to the last ranked opponent to enter the McCarthey Athletic Center - then-No. 13 Illinois in 2012.

Gonzaga rolled past Sacramento State 104-58 in its opener Friday, with five Bulldogs scoring in double figures. One of those was Byron Wesley, who transferred from USC before the season after averaging 17.8 points and 6.4 rebounds in 2013-14.

"I think it's a good start," said Wesley, who had 12 points, seven boards and four steals. "We came out with great intensity, we played really well on the defensive end, which I'm excited about, and I felt like we played as a team and everybody was unselfish. I'm pleased with our effort."

With the addition of Wesley and Kyle Wiltjer, who also transferred after averaging 10.2 points in 2012-13 for Kentucky, Gonzaga hopes to be even better than the team that went 29-7 last season.

Holdover Kevin Pangos got off to a strong start with 16 points, while Gary Bell Jr. had 11 points, six rebounds and five assists.

SMU and Gonzaga have never played. The Mustangs were 0-2 last season in matchups in which both teams were ranked.

Including the NCAA tournament, Gonzaga has lost 11 of its last 15 to ranked opponents. Brown is embracing the challenge of his team making it 12 of 16.

"Anytime you play against great teams away from home, you find out what you do well and you find out what you need to do better," he said. "I've always liked that."