No. 8 SMU still only undefeated after 77-73 win over Houston

DALLAS (AP) Nic Moore delivered the message at halftime for No. 8 SMU. The senior point guard also did his part on the court to keep the Mustangs the only undefeated team in Division I.

Moore scored 23 points and had some part in each basket as SMU scored on five consecutive possessions down the stretch in a 77-73 victory over feisty Houston on Tuesday night.

''It's just got to be fun for us,'' said Markus Kennedy, like Moore a senior and third-year starter for SMU.

''Effort in the second half was what won the game,'' coach Larry Brown said. ''At halftime, Nic was telling our team, let's enjoy this. The pressure happened when we got our (NCAA) ruling. There's no pressure now.''

Kennedy had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and his two free throws with 5:35 left broke the game's 12th and final tie to put the Mustangs (18-0, 7-0 AAC) ahead to stay. Kennedy's tip-in a minute earlier tied the game and was part of an 8-0 spurt.

Moore then had consecutive baskets before missing two in a row – one tipped in by Sterling Brown and the other followed by Ben Moore to make it 67-64. After Damyean Dotson was on the 3-point line for a long jumper that got the Cougars (13-5, 3-3) within a point, Nic Moore passed to Brown for a 3-pointer.

At 7-0 in the American, the Mustangs have their best conference start since finishing 12-0 in the Southwest Conference in 1955-56 on way to their only NCAA Final Four appearance. That was part of their school-record 20 consecutive wins that season.

Coach Larry Brown's team is ineligible for the postseason this year because of NCAA infractions which also led to being suspended the first nine games. And the Mustangs are playing short-handed, with only seven scholarship players available after junior point guard Keith Frazier left the team.

''I'm just in awe of our team,'' Brown said. ''I'm just proud of the way we've handled everything, and how much we've grown and how much better we're getting.''

The Mustangs ended the first half with an 8-0 run, tying the game at 34-all on Nic Moore's step-back jumper after dribbling out much of the final 30 seconds. That was set up by Kennedy's rebound that ended a possession when the Cougars missed two 3s and the front end of a bonus.

Houston, which has lost three straight after a 13-2 start, led for more than 15 1/2 minutes of the first half. The Cougars were up by eight after Galen Robinson's layup with 3:02 left.

''All the games we've lost, all of them, we've been there, we're getting better. I can tell this team is getting better,'' Cougars coach Kelvin Sampson said. ''I told them, be disappointed you lost, but don't be disappointed in your effort.''

Dotson had 16 points to lead the Cougars, Danrad Knowles had 14 points and Robinson had 11.

Sterling Brown had 15 points for SMU, and Ben Moore had 10.

''It's fun when it's like this,'' Sterling Brown said. ''When you know you are in a dogfight, those are fun. Especially you when you come out in front.''

TIP-INS

Houston: It was the first Top 25 opponent this season for the Cougars. … Houston outrebounded SMU 37-32.

SMU: The Mustangs led for only 8:07 of the game. … There are always some high-flying highlights for SMU. With just under 8 minutes left in the first half, Milton had an alley-oop pass that Sterling Brown grabbed with his right hand and slammed in a single motion. ''We practice that a lot,'' Brown said. …. SMU made 24 free throws and 25 field goals.

UP NEXT

Houston hosts USF on Saturday.

SMU is at Temple on Saturday night.