Hampton-SMU Preview

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With two starters injured and a reserve suffering from illness, No. 18 SMU turned to an all-hands-on-deck approach to extend the program's best start in 18 years.

In their second game in as many days, the Mustangs hope to get some help and will try to continue a perfect start Thursday night against visiting Hampton in the Las Vegas Classic.

Starters Markus Kennedy and Keith Frazier haven't been able to practice since going down in an 82-58 home win over Michigan on Dec. 8. Kennedy is dealing with an ankle injury, while Frazier, second on the team with 13.4 points per game, has a knee injury.

Making matters worse, reserve guard Sedrick Barefield is also out with a fever.

With just seven available players, including one walk-on, four Mustangs (8-0) played at least 30 minutes in Wednesday's 86-42 home win over Nicholls State in the opener of the tournament, which will continue next week at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.

Ben Moore had 22 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists, while Jordan Tolbert added 18 points and 23 boards - the most since Ira Terrell pulled down a school-record 26 in December 1975.

"It looks like a video game sometimes the way (Tolbert) is rebounding," said associate head coach Tim Jankovich, who is filling in while Larry Brown serves a nine-game suspension because of NCAA sanctions. "A 23-rebound night - I don't care who you're playing, when you're playing or what you're playing - you don't see many of those."

Moore has averaged 15.8 points and 11.3 rebounds and Tolbert 17.7 and 15.0 over the past three games. SMU, off to its best start since opening 10-0 in 1997-98, ranks among the national leaders in field-goal percentage (52.8) and rebounding margin (plus-17.0).

The Mustangs also lead all AAC teams in defensive scoring (59.0) and field-goal percentage (36.1) after limiting Nicholls State to 25.4 percent shooting, including 3 of 22 from 3-point range.

"Their effort is outstanding. Their camaraderie (and) their unselfishness is outstanding and it has made for a successful start to the season," Jankovich said. "There's still room for improvement. We're going to need to improve, but so far they've been a really fun team to coach."

Jankovich is hoping Frazier and Kennedy will be able to return Wednesday, though they're more likely to be game-time decisions. Barefield has already been ruled out.

The Mustangs, who have won 40 of 43 at home, look to continue their success at Moody Coliseum against a well-rested Hampton team that hasn't played since Dec. 5.

Reginald Johnson had 22 points and Quinton Chievous added 21 and 10 rebounds in the Pirates' second straight win, 74-71 in overtime at Coppin State in their Mid-Eastern Conference opener. Johnson is averaging 18.7 points and Chievous 16.5 with 13.3 boards.

Hampton (4-3) has returned 10 players from last year's NCAA Tournament qualifiers.

"One thing they are is fresh," Jankovich said. "Rusty, I hope, is another thing. They are fresh and we are not. But we did get the rust off of us, so maybe that will be an advantage."

Hampton, which will take on SMU for the first time, has dropped its past five meetings versus ranked opponents by an average of 28.8 points.