DALLAS (AP) – Before SMU returned to its campus home in the newly renovated Moody Coliseum, it had been 10 years since the Mustangs defeated a Top 25 opponent.
Now Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown’s team has beaten two ranked teams in less than a month.
Markus Kennedy had 21 points and 15 rebounds and Nic Moore had 14 points with 10 assists, while also keying a game-turning run to start the second half, as the Mustangs stayed undefeated at home with an 87-72 victory over No. 22 Memphis on Saturday.
“This is the type of game we want all the time,” said Sterling Brown, who had 15 points. “We came here for big games.”
SMU (17-5, 6-3 American Athletic) has already won two more games than in Brown’s debut on The Hilltop last season.
Moore had an assist on Kennedy’s tiebreaking layup right after halftime. Moore then added 3-pointers in the 10-2 spurt in just over 2 minutes that put SMU in full control. The Mustangs pushed ahead 56-36 only 7 minutes into the second half after Brown hit consecutive 3-pointers.
“We got punched in the mouth at the start of the second half and we didn’t recover,” said Memphis coach Josh Pastner, whose Tigers lost a conference road game for the first time in two years.
The Tigers (16-5, 6-3), which moved with SMU from Conference USA to the AAC this season, had won 19 consecutive league road games — 16 in the regular season and three in the C-USA tournament last March — since a C-USA loss at Southern Mississippi exactly two years ago Saturday.
Memphis’ record is 27 consecutive conference road victories, a streak that ended with another loss at SMU four years ago.
SMU overcame an eight-point deficit in the first half and got even at 29 when Moore followed his own miss with a short jumper with 6 seconds left in the first half.
“That was about 11 or 12 minutes about as good as we could play,” coach Brown said. ” We were unselfish, we defended.”
SMU is 11-0 at home this season, including all five games since moving back to Moody. The Mustangs re-opened their campus home with a 74-65 win Jan. 4 over then-No. 17 UConn, which was their first victory over a ranked opponent since December 2003, and their first campus sellout since two years before that.
There was another sellout Saturday, and now they have multiple victories over ranked teams in the same season since three in 1984-85.
The Mustangs have won six of seven overall, the loss 78-71 on Tuesday night at USF.
“Everybody when you get into conference play, you have got to realize everybody can beat you. We haven’t gotten to that point yet,” Brown said. “It’s one thing trying to beat a team that people don’t expect you to win, but it’s another learning how to win on the road against a team that people expect you to win. … It’s still a work in progress.”
SMU’s other conference losses are at No. 12 Louisville and No. 13 Cincinnati, which visits Moody Coliseum next Saturday.
Kennedy got his points on 10-of-10 shooting, his sixth career double-double. After the game, Brown said the NCAA had provided a waiver to allow SMU to fly Kennedy home to Philadelphia to visit his military mother, who is about to return to the Middle East for another tour of duty.
Joe Jackson led Memphis with 22 points, while Geron Johnson had 18 and Michael Dixon Jr. 13. Dominic Woodson had 11 rebounds.
Nick Russell added 11 points for the Mustangs, and Keith Frazier 10.
Memphis had won six of seven, including a four-game winning streak with those wins by an average margin of 17 points.
The Tigers built a 23-15 lead, their largest, when Johnson passed ahead to Jackson for an easy layup to cap an 11-0 run with about 7 minutes before halftime.
The first nine points for the Tigers in that stretch came during a 2-minute stretch when SMU had four turnovers that led directly to seven points.
But SMU recovered and completely took over.
“They just came out they made shots, we went away from our game plan,” Johnson said. “They were a tougher basketball team today.”