GAME NOTES: The California Golden Bears and the SMU Mustangs will meet up in the quarterfinals of the National Invitation Tournament on Wednesday night at Moody Coliseum.
The winner will advance to the semifinals to face off against Clemson.
California (21-13) hosted both of its first two games in this event, taking care of business against Utah Valley in the first round (77-64) before besting Arkansas in the second round (75-64). The Golden Bears set the tone early in their latest matchup by running out to a commanding 31-8 lead over the Razorbacks 15 minutes in and they cruised the rest of the way en route to the 11-point victory. They outshot Arkansas from the field, 55.3 percent to 32.1 percent, and also had a stellar night at the free-throw line (17-of-21). Jabari Bird shot 7-of-8 from the floor on his way to 19 points, Tyrone Wallace netted 16 and David Kravish tallied 13 points, eight rebounds and three blocks.
SMU improved to 25-9 overall and 17-1 on its home floor with a pair of wins at Moody Coliseum to open up this tournament, earning a couple of easy victories over UC Irvine (68-54) and LSU (80-67). Although the Mustangs trailed LSU early in the second half in their second-round matchup on Monday night, they quickly took control of the contest with a 23-8 run and never looked back from there, as they finished the game shooting nearly 58 percent from the field while winning both the rebounding (33-31) and turnover (13-11) battles. Pacing five players in double figures with 16 points apiece were Nic Moore and Nick Russell, and the duo combined to hand out nine assists as well. Markus Kennedy poured in 13 points and Shawn Williams and Keith Frazier both scored 11.
The teams have split a two-game all-time series, with the latest matchup coming during the 1979-80 season.
On the season, the Golden Bears have successfully outproduced their opponents by shooting 45.7 percent from the field for 73.1 ppg while allowing 69.5 ppg on just 41.5 percent shooting. The team also has a +1.5 rebounding margin but has shot free throws at only a 68.5 percent clip. Justin Cobbs is the spark plug with 15.3 ppg on nearly 46 percent field-goal shooting, while also finding time to hand out 5.8 apg. Kravish (11.4 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.1 bpg) and Wallace (11.3 ppg) have also been integral parts, as has Richard Solomon (11.2 ppg, 10.0 rpg), although he's missed the first two games of the tournament with a concussion.
SMU is one of the nation's most well-rounded teams, as it not only shoots 48.5 percent from the field (38.3 percent from 3-point range) for 71.5 ppg, but it also ranks fourth in the nation in field-goal percentage defense (.379), while allowing just 62.2 ppg. Moore (13.6 ppg, 4.9 apg) is the top scorer and facilitator and boasts excellent percentages from the field (.471), beyond the arc (.449) and the foul line (.839). Kennedy (12.0 ppg, 6.9 rpg) and Russell (9.8 ppg) are also regular contributors, and a total of 10 players put up at least 4.3 ppg for the balanced team.
While many past teams who were snubbed from the NCAA Tournament come into the NIT with a lack of focus and checked out early, the Mustangs have taken their frustrations out on the floor in a big way. Continuing to defend its home floor, expect SMU to move on to the semifinals.
Game Date and Time