STORRS, Conn. (AP) — SMU added a quality road win to its already solid NCAA tournament resume.
Nick Russell and Nic Moore each scored 15 points to lead the Mustangs (22-6, 11-4 American Athletic Conference) to a 64-55 win Sunday over No. 21 UConn and a sweep of their season series with the Huskies.
Markus Kennedy had 13 points and seven rebounds for SMU, which has won 11 of its past 13 games.
“It’s not about getting to the tournament,” Kennedy said. “It’s about getting a good seed and making a run for it. We’ve got the Final Four in our city and it should be a home game for us.”
The Mustangs likely will go as far as their defense will carry them. They held UConn (21-6, 9-5) to 16 baskets and just under 30 percent shooting from the floor.
The Huskies’ guard tandem of Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier combined to shoot 8 for 28.
Each finished with 15 points.
“They are a terrific defensive team,” Boatright said. “You can’t beat them off the first option. You’ve got to go to the second or third options.”
The Mustangs never trailed. They led by two at halftime, but extended that to 10 points midway through the second half.
The Huskies cut the lead to 55-49 on a 3-pointer by Napier, but Sterling Brown answered with a 3-pointer and SMU held on down the stretch.
“We have as good a defensive guard as there is in the country in Nick Russell, and we have some length behind him” SMU coach Larry Brown said. “I thought both teams defended like crazy.”
Neither team could find the basket early.
The first points came more than four minutes into the game on a layup by Kennedy. The teams were a combined 0 for 7 with eight turnovers before that.
It was 7-0 when before Philip Nolan gave UConn its first points on a layup more than six minutes into the game.
Kennedy had eight first-half points for the Mustangs.
But SMU never led by more than seven in the first half and UConn tied the game at 25 with under a minute to play. SMU took the lead back on a pair of Kennedy free throws, and scored the first two baskets of the second half.
The Mustangs extended the lead to 44-34, holding the Huskies without a field goal for eight minutes between two of Napier’s layups.
SMU, which is seeking its first berth to the NCAA tournament since 1993, beat UConn 74-65 in Dallas in January. The Mustangs also have wins over No. 22 Memphis and No. 7 Cincinnati in conference play. They fell out of the Top 25 after losing last week at Temple.
“We’re still up and down,” Moore said. “But once we get to that clicking point and we just stay at a high, I feel we can make a big run if we make the NCAA tournament.”
The Mustangs already have more wins this season than any SMU team since 1999-00. They improved to 4-4 in league play on the road and are 7-0 at home.
UConn honored the first of its three men’s national championship teams at halftime, putting a plaque on its “Wall of Honor” for the 1999 champs. Khalid El-Amin, the point guard on that team, also was honored with an individual plaque.
UConn hit 6 of 21 shots from 3-point range, but has 194 on the season, three more than the Huskies had all of last year.
It doesn’t get much easier for SMU, which faces Central Florida next, but still has games left with No. 11 Louisville and at No. 22 Memphis before the American tournament.
Connecticut also faces two ranked teams in its final three regular-season games, hosting No. 7 Cincinnati next Saturday and closing the season at Louisville.
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