DALLAS (AP) — SMU coach Larry Brown felt compelled to warn his Mustangs about Thursday’s home date against Temple being a “trap” game between visits from nationally-ranked Memphis and Cincinnati, and that speaks volumes about the program that Brown has built in less than two seasons.
“Our program’s not to the point where we know how to win games that we’re supposed to,” Brown said after SMU defeated Temple 75-52 on Thursday behind Markus Kennedy’s 14 points and 9 rebounds and Shawn Williams’ 14 points. “I think we were all concerned about this game ’cause everywhere I went people were talking about Saturday. I was kind of confused what they meant by that.”
Saturday is a date with No. 7 Cincinnati, which beat SMU 65-57 on New Year’s Day in the Mustangs’ debut as members of the American Athletic Conference. SMU (18-5, 7-3) is tied for third place with Memphis as it attempts to gain its first NCAA Tournament berth since 1993.
Before beating Memphis last Saturday, SMU traveled to South Florida and lost to a team that it previously beat at home by 17.
“We took this game very seriously ’cause it’s kind of similar to what happened to us at South Florida and we didn’t want to have a repeat of that,” Williams said.
“Coach told us we couldn’t lose focus and we had to pay attention to the game that was upcoming,” said Ben Moore, who came off the bench to become one of five Mustangs to score in double figures with 10.
The Owls (6-15, 1-8) lost for the 10th time in their last 11 games. Temple’s Dalton Pepper led all scorers with 15 points, while Anthony Lee had 12 and Will Cummings 10. The Owls went into the game as the only team in Division I with four players averaging at least 14 points per game.
SMU went into game ranked third in Division I field-goal defense at 37.2 percent and held Temple to 30.3 percent on 20-for-66 shooting.
Williams said he enjoys SMU’s defensive emphasis.
“That’s kind of my role,” he said, “try to do the dirty work and try to guard the best interior players.”
Kennedy scored eight of SMU’s first 10 points in the first 4 minutes as the Mustangs raced to a 10-4 lead. They led by as many 14 during the first half and took a 32-20 lead to the locker room at halftime. It was Temple’s lowest scoring first half this season.
“They set their mind on where our points were coming from, and they shut it down,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said.
SMU has dominated points in the paint throughout the season, and Thursday’s game was no different as the Mustangs held a 40-22 advantage inside.
The Owls shot only 23.3 percent during the first half (7 of 30) and missed their first eight attempts on 3-pointers.
“They trap you,” Pepper said. “They get their hands on a lot of balls. It’s frustrating.”
Temple’s first successful 3-pointer, by Pepper, pulled the Owls within 20-14 with 7:06 to play in the half. But SMU responded by outscoring Temple 12-6 for the balance of the half. That included Kennedy’s only other field goal of the half, when he made a steal near the Owls’ free-throw line and dribbled all the way down court, splitting Temple’s Cummings and Josh Brown for a layup.
The Mustangs, who shot 60.7 during the second half, extended their lead to a game-high 27 points with 7:20 remaining.
SMU is unbeaten in 12 home games this season — the first six were played off campus while its 57-year-old Moody Coliseum underwent a $47 million refurbishing. To extend that home run to 13-0, the Mustangs must defeat a top-10 team for the first time since December 1987.
“To see that kind of environment when everybody’s thinking about Saturday — we’ve come a long way,” Brown said.
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