SMU coach Larry Brown was hopeful but not optimistic that the game film would contradict his point of view that the Mustangs still have plenty to work on.
It's certainly not how he wanted to be feeling heading into a rematch with a Houston team that gave SMU everything it could handle minus its leading scorer two weeks ago.
In a matchup between the American Athletic Conference's two highest scoring teams, the 12th-ranked Mustangs aim to avoid to their second straight road loss Monday night.
SMU was the last to fall from the ranks of the unbeaten with an 89-80 loss at Temple in a snow-delayed game on Jan. 24. That ended an 18-game winning streak that was the school's longest since running off 20 in a row during its only Final Four appearance 60 years ago.
The Mustangs seemed to get back on track while building a 12-point first-half lead Saturday versus Memphis, but they struggled in the final 20 minutes of an 80-68 home win.
"I hope the film makes me a liar but I don't think so," Brown said. "I think there are things from this game that we really did well and there are things that we have to do better because Houston is a terrific team. They have guys who can score the ball and there's a little difference playing at home to playing on the road. We'll have a real challenge."
SMU (19-1, 8-1) is banned from postseason play because of NCAA penalties, but can win its second consecutive AAC regular-season title and break the program record of 28 wins.
''We have one goal right now, to try to win a conference championship," the coach said.
The Cougars seek their third consecutive victory following a 97-93 double-overtime win at East Carolina on Saturday. Rob Gray Jr. led the way with a career high-tying 31 points with six 3-pointers and Damyean Dotson added a season-high 23 points and 13 rebounds.
Gray averages a team-high 17.3 points for a Houston team that scores 78.6 per game, second only to SMU's 80.0. The sophomore guard, however, wasn't available due to a sprained left ankle when the Cougars came up short in a 77-73 loss at SMU on Jan. 19.
Still, Houston (15-6, 5-4) led for more than 15 1/2 minutes of the first half and tied the game with 5:35 left before Markus Kennedy's free throws gave SMU the lead for good. Kennedy has totaled 33 points and 16 rebounds in his last two games against the Cougars.
Senior guard Nic Moore had 23 points in the January win, and he scored 22 on Saturday despite not practicing all week after banging his head and shoulder against the Owls.
"I'm hoping he got out of the game OK," Brown said of Moore, who has averaged 22.0 points and made 12 of 22 from 3-point range in his last three games versus Houston.
The Mustangs lead the conference with a 40.8 3-point percentage, but went 3 for 13 from beyond the arc in the first meeting with the Cougars. Dotson finished with 16 points and seven rebounds to lead Houston to a 37-32 advantage on the glass.
The Cougars have dropped three straight matchups and five of the past six.