February 13, 2015

SMU's seniors would be playing their final game at Moody Coliseum on Thursday night even if the NCAA didn't levy probation that will keep them from participating in the American Athletic Conference and NCAA tournaments.

Coach Larry Brown said Senior Night "is never fun," but it might be even more emotional considering the 24th-ranked Mustangs have only one more game remaining after facing Connecticut.

The postseason ban stemming from an NCAA probe that revealed academic fraud significantly shortens the season for SMU (24-4, 12-4), which won its first 18 - including the first nine while Brown was suspended for lack of program control - and undoubtedly would make its second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.

The Mustangs' lone chance for any sort of championship is winning the regular-season AAC crown. They're tied atop the conference with Temple after Sunday's 74-53 win over Tulane gave them a fourth victory in five games.

Leading scorer Nic Moore finished with five points and five turnovers while going 1 of 9 from the field, but Ben Moore had 16 points and 12 rebounds and Sterling Brown scored 15.

''I think it's affected us for the last month,'' Brown said of the NCAA ruling. ''I don't think about that other stuff - stupid people making a stupid decision, in my mind. The reality is what these kids have accomplished. They did it with obstacles.''

SMU wraps up its season Sunday at Cincinnati.

''We think about it, but we just try and look at the next game,'' freshman Jarrey Foster said.

Seniors Nic Moore, Jordan Tolbert and Markus Kennedy will get one last chance for a victory at Moody, where SMU has gone 15-1. It has won three straight overall since losing 68-62 at Connecticut on Feb. 18.

Nic Moore had 14 points and Ben Moore added 13 and 12 boards, but Amida Brimah finished with 16 points and five blocks for the Huskies (20-9, 10-6), who are looking for another quality victory to add to their NCAA Tournament resume.

Some prognosticators have the Huskies as one of the last teams in even with them having dropped two of three. They crumbled down the stretch Sunday in a 75-68 home loss to Houston despite Daniel Hamilton's 20 points.

The Cougars' point total was the highest UConn had allowed in 14 games, and their 51.9 percent shooting marked the best performance for an opponent all season.

''It just comes down to toughness and I'm going to stop my man,'' coach Kevin Ollie said. ''The lack of effort that we showed out here is very disappointing.''

UConn beat then-No. 21 SMU but lost its other two against ranked opponents. It concludes the regular season against Central Florida on Sunday at home, and a second victory over the Mustangs plus a strong showing in the AAC tournament should be enough to lock in an NCAA Tournament berth.

The Huskies missed it last season after winning the national title the previous year.

"It's really frustrating, but we put ourselves in this situation," Hamilton said. "Now we just got to get ourselves out, starting on Thursday."

Hamilton finished with 14 points, six rebounds and four assists in the first meeting with SMU, which has won both home matchups since the creation of the AAC in 2013-14.

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