Feb. 6, 2014
The Mustangs host Rutgers Saturday at 2 p.m. after having their three game win streak snapped at No. Connecticut. SMU (14-8, 5-6 The American) trails the Scarlet Knights (17-5, 8-3 The American) by three games in the conference standings with seven games left in the regular season. Keena Mays, the league's leading scorer with 20.1 points per game, has scored at least 20 in each of the last three contests. SMU is third in the conference in scoring offense, averaging 69.9 points, and Rutgers is fourth with 67.9 points, but the Scarlet Knights are the league's second-best scoring defense, allowing just 57.7 points per game.
SCOUTING THE OPPONENT - RV/- RUTGERS
Rutgers is 16-5 (7-3 The American) in 2013-14 and is currently receiving votes in the AP top 25. Rutgers is led in scoring by Kahleah Copper who averages 15.7 points per contest. Two other Scarlet Knights average double-figure scoring, including Betnijah Laney, who also leads the team in rebounds with 9.5 per game, good for second in the conference. Rachel Hollivay leads the American with 3.3 blocks per game, helping towards Rutgers second-ranked scoring defense in the league.
Series History: This will be the second meeting of the season and second all-time between the programs, with Rutgers taking a 64-54 win in Piscataway, N.J., on Jan. 11. Keena Mays scored 15 in the first meeting, while Akil Simpson and Kiara Perry both posted double-doubles.
LAST TIME OUT - NO. 1 UCONN
Keena Mays recorded 20 points and six rebounds, but No. 1 Connecticut held the Mustangs to 20 percent shooting from the field as the Huskies beat the Mustangs 102-41. Connecticut (24-0, 11-0 The American) remained undefeated with the win, while SMU dropped to 14-8 (5-6). Mays, who won her fourth American Athletic Conference Player of the Week award on Monday, reached the 20-point plateau for the 12th time this season. The senior entered the night leading the league in scoring at 20.1 points per game. Kiara Perry led the Mustangs with seven rebounds, while Akil Simpson and Mays each had six.
UP NEXT - UCF
The Mustangs play a midweek road game for the second straight week, taking on UCF in Orlando, Fla., Tuesday at 6 p.m. CT on the American Digital Network. UCF is currently 9-13, 2-9 in The American after starting the season 7-1. Sara Djassi paces the Knights with 12.0 points per game to go with 5.4 rebounds. Djassi also ranks 12th in the league in free throw shooting, converting on 72 percent of her attempts. Brittni Montgomery leads UCF and is fifth in the conference with 9.0 rebounds per game. The Knights are third in the league in defensive rebounds, averaging 28.6 per game.
Series History: SMU is 8-3 all-time against UCF, but the Knights took the most recent meeting during the quarterfinals of the Conference USA Tournament a season ago. The Mustangs won four straight games over UCF from 2010-2013, including a 69-54 home win on Jan. 13, 2013. Korina Baker scored 17 points with five three-pointers to lead SMU to the victory.
Rhonda Rompola has led the Mustangs against 37 different conference opponents during her time as head coach. The American Athletic Conference is the fourth the SMU women's basketball team has been a member of, competing in the Southwest Conference (8 opponents) until joining the Western Athletic Conference (18 opponents, 16 new) prior to the 1996-97 season. The Mustangs became members of Conference USA (11 opponents, 7 new) in 2005-06. The Mustangs have played conference games in 22 different states, as far west as Hawaii and as far north as Idaho. This season, SMU added six new schools in five new states to its list of conference opponents.
LEADING THE LEAGUE
Keena Mays leads the American Athletic Conference and ranks 34th in the NCAA with 20.1 points per game, and is one of three players in the conference with multiple Player of the Week awards, earning her league-best fourth honor on Feb. 1 after scoring 24 against Cincinnati and 30 against Temple, reaching 30 for the third time this season. She has eclipsed 20 points 12 times this season, including games against Connecticut and Louisville, and also ranks among the league's leaders in assists (7th-4.0/game), steals (3rd-2.2/game), and three-point percentage (4th-36.6 percent).
GRAND AND A-MAYS-ING
Keena Mays scored the 1,000th point of her career at Cincinnati. The senior guard scored 331 points in 42 games at Kansas before transferring to SMU. In 44 games on the Hilltop, Mays has scored 846 points. She would need to average 20 points for the rest of the season to get to 1,000 points at SMU.
SIMPSON IS A STAR
Akil Simpson is one of two Mustangs with at least 10 points in 19 of 22 games, including a season-high 23 against Temple on Feb. 1. The senior posted her eighth double-double of the season with 23 points and 12 rebounds vs. Temple, and has 24 during her career, recording nine as a sophomore. She scored 11 points against No. 3/4 Tennessee and had 14 at No. 7/7 Louisville. Simpson leads the team, is sixth in the conference and ranks 30th in the NCAA, shooting 52.7 percent from the field. She is averaging 13.8 points, eighth in The American, with 8.1 rebounds, sixth in the conference.
REACHING A MILESTONE
Akil Simpson made the reopening of Moody Coliseum on Jan. 4 against USF a day that will live forever, becoming the 21st player to score 1,000 points during a career at SMU. The senior entered the game needing seven points to reach the milestone, and finished with 12 points, reaching double digits for the seventh straight game. She has 1,115 points, passing former teammate Alisha Filmore for 18th all-time at SMU with 15 at Houston. She needs 44 more points to pass Jillian Samuels for 15th all-time at SMU.
BATTLING THE BEST
The Mustangs have played four games against a ranked opponent this season (Tennessee, Louisville twice, and UConn), and have another game on the schedule against No. 1 Connecticut. SMU played five ranked opponents during the 2003-04 season, but just two games against a team ranked in the top 10 at the time of the game. This season, all five opponents are currently in the top 10.
Kiara Perry has scored at least 10 points nine times, including five of the last eight games. She was named Freshman of the Week in The American on Dec. 30. Since the start of conference play, she is shooting just under 40 percent and averaging 9.2 points with 4.9 rebounds.
PASSING THE ROCK
The Mustangs have recorded 347 assists on 559 field goals this season, good for fourth in The American with 15.8 assists per game. SMU is third in the league with a 1.0 assist/turnover margin. Keena Mays leads the team with 89 assists, including a season-high eight three times, and ranks seventh in the league with 4.0 per game. Korina Baker has 76 assists, ranking ninth with 3.5 per game.
GET THE BALL
The Mustangs have forced 387 turnovers on the season, and are averaging 18.6 points off turnovers per game. SMU is 10-2 when committing fewer turnovers than opponents, and ranks third in the conference with a +2.1 turnover margin. SMU has 171 steals this season, averaging 7.8 per game. Six players have at least 10 steals, led by Mays' 48.
MOODY GETS A FACELIFT
The $47 million renovation and expansion of Moody Coliseum, which opened in December 1956, was completed in December, and the Mustangs will host all conference games on campus. The renovated Moody Coliseum will provide many new and improved features, including a renovated main entry lobby, expanded concourses with raised ceilings, club seats, loge boxes, private suites, group suites, new event space, offices, team locker rooms and meeting space.
NEW HEIGHTS IN BROADCAST COVERAGE
For the first time in program history, SMU women's basketball fans will have the opportunity to watch all 29 regular-season games live this season. The Mustangs will have two games on ESPNU this season, Dec. 29 at Louisville, and again when SMU hosts the Cardinals on Jan. 19 in the newly-renovated Moody Coliseum. ESPN will broadcast two games live on its digital channel, ESPN3, including the first game of the season in Moody Coliseum, a Jan. 4 matchup against USF. The Memphis game on Feb. 22 in the FedEx Forum will also be on ESPN3. SportsNet New York will carry both games against Connecticut. SMU will also play seven games on the American Digital Network, and the other eight home games will air on PonyUp TV.
Head coach Rhonda Rompola and associate head coach Lisa Dark have been together on the sidelines since Rompola took over the reins of the program 23 seasons ago. Assistant coach Deneen Parker is in her 19th season with the Mustangs. The SMU staff has the second longest active tenure of any staff at one school. Danny Hughes is in his fifth year with the program.
Rhonda Rompola has led the Mustangs to the NCAA Tournament seven times and the WNIT five times in 22 seasons. The Mustangs have captured two conference tournament championships, winning the Western Athletic Conference tournament in 1999 and the C-USA tournament in 2008, and three regular season titles under her leadership. She has coached three All-Americans, three Conference Players of the Year, two Conference Defensive Players of the Year and 34 All-Conference selections. Rompola has also earned six Coach of the Year honors during her career.