Milton scores 20 to help No. 17 SMU beat UConn 69-61
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) It was Shake Milton’s turn to be SMU’s hot shooter.
Milton scored 18 of his game-high 20 points in the first half to lead the 17th-ranked Mustangs to a 69-61 victory over UConn on Saturday.
The Mustangs (25-4, 15-1 American Athletic Conference) won their 11th straight and haven’t lost since Jan. 12 at Cincinnati. Semi Ojeleye had 16 points, Ben Moore added 15 and Sterling Brown had 11 as four of the seven players finished in double figures.
”What I do know about this team is we have a lot of good shooters,” SMU coach Tim Jankovich said. ”So on any given night, and this is what happened all year long, you never know where the fire might break. But we have had it break out all different places.”
Milton came in well rested since the Mustangs had a week off between games and he played only 26 minutes in the previous win over Houston on Feb. 18 due to foul trouble.
”I just get into a rhythm and my teammates did a good job of feeding me,” said Milton, who had eight rebounds. ”I haven’t really played in a couple weeks, so I had plenty of energy.”
The Mustangs rode the hot shooting of Milton, who made 6 of 7 from 3-point range, to lead 41-30 at halftime. SMU led by as many as 16 points, with Milton’s fifth 3-pointer giving it a 31-15 lead with 8:04 to play.
The Huskies (14-14, 9-7), who have dropped two straight after a four-game winning streak, were led by Kentan Facey’s 15 points. Freshman Christian Vital and Vance Jackson each added 14, while Rodney Purvis had 11.
”The first half they really had us on our heels with Shake Milton hitting all the 3s,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. ”But I thought our guys did a great job in the second half and got the game down to five.”
In addition to trailing by double digits before halftime, the Huskies also lost point guard Jalen Adams to a sprained left ankle with just under 3 minutes left in the half. Adams did not return and remains day-to-day.
Without Adams, UConn pulled within 57-52 with 9:20 to play on Purvis’ 3-pointer. Purvis had a rough night shooting at 4 of 18, but he hit two 3-pointers and Vital added two more as the Huskies mounted a comeback.
Jankovich called a timeout to settle his team down, and it worked. SMU responded with a 9-2 run to lead 66-54 with 4:30 left.
”They are a good team and you have to expect them to make a run,” Ojeleye said. ”We are playing on the road, so it’s tough. But you just have to stay the course, rely on your defense and take good shots.”
The Mustangs shot 45.1 percent (23 for 51) from the field, including 13 for 26 in the first half. UConn hit 39.7 percent overall (23 for 58).
SMU: The Mustangs and No. 15 Cincinnati are vying for the top seed in the AAC Tournament, but it will come down to the wire. The teams split in the regular season.
UConn: The Huskies are looking to lockup a top-five seed in the AAC Tournament, but could be in trouble if Adams is out for an extended period. Vital and Purvis are the only healthy guards left.
The Mustangs played only once this week, but their road victory in the midst of an 11-game winning streak should help keep them right in the middle of the Top 25.
With the AAC Tournament in Hartford next month, the Mustangs were glad to get the opportunity to become familiar with the facility there.
”It’s the first time I have been here,” Ojeleye said. ”It’s an actual road game, but when we come back here it will more of a neutral site. It helps us get comfortable and have better starts to games.”
UConn won the rebound battle 37-36. .. SMU is 7-2 against the Huskies in the series since both joined the AAC, and has won three straight. . Amida Brimah had one point with 11 rebounds and four blocks for UConn. . Former SMU coach Larry Brown was in attendance.
SMU finishes the regular season at home with Tulsa and Memphis.
UConn closes at East Carolina and Cincinnati.
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