March 07, 2015

SMU's quest for an undefeated season ended a little more than two weeks ago, but coach Larry Brown finally believes his squad is simply playing for itself.

The No. 16 Mustangs can build on their most decisive American Athletic Conference victory by remaining undefeated at home Wednesday night against Tulsa.

After losing two of three and shooting 40.4 percent in the previous two, SMU (20-2, 9-2) shot 60.3 percent - second-highest this season - in Sunday's 92-58 road rout of lowly South Florida.

Though the Mustangs faced little resistance while going 14 of 24 from 3-point range and recording a season-high 27 assists, Brown might have been most pleased with his team's care-free approach.

''Maybe the pressure of everybody talking about how special we were and we had this chance of going undefeated ...'' Brown said. ''I never thought about that, to be honest. But I think it might have affected our kids.''

An unbeaten run during a season in which NCAA sanctions prohibit the program from any postseason competition became a hot topic until the Mustangs lost 89-80 at Temple on Jan. 24. Following a 12-point home win over Memphis six days later, SMU fell 71-68 at Houston on Feb. 1.

After getting back on track again, the league-leading Mustangs try to win consecutive games for the first time since starting 18-0. Despite matching a season-low shooting effort against Memphis, SMU has still hit more than half of its attempts while averaging 79.1 points during a 15-game home winning streak that dates to its 62-54 loss to Cincinnati on Feb. 5, 2015.

That run included last season's 67-62 win over Tulsa (15-8, 7-4), which dropped its fourth straight in the series by allowing SMU to shoot 56.4 percent and go 10 of 15 from 3-point range in an 81-69 home loss Dec. 29.

"When you play a team that is as talented as they are and as skilled as they are, in terms of scoring the basketball, you have to make plays when you have the opportunity to make plays," Tulsa coach Frank Haith said after that meeting. "We weren't able to make those plays. Give them credit. They are an extremely talented team."

A 23-win team that went 14-4 in the league last season, the Golden Hurricane haven't been quite as sharp in 2015-16. Though it shot 51.9 percent in Sunday's 77-63 home victory over the Cougars, Tulsa's hit 38 percent of its shots and gone 11 of 52 from 3-point range while losing two straight on the road.

"The way this has played out you can't hang your head, and you got to move on to the next one," Haith said. "We have another great opportunity on Wednesday to play one ofthe best teams in the country."

Third in the AAC averaging 16.2 points, Tulsa guard James Woodard hit five 3-pointers and finished with 22 points against the Mustangs in December. He went 10 of 16 from beyond the arc while scoring a career-high 30 at SMU last season.

Nic Moore (15.8 ppg) scored 23 at Tulsa, and has averaged 20 in three career meetings.

Freshman teammate Shake Milton, who scored 22 on Sunday, had a season-high 24 against the Golden Hurricane.

Tulsa has lost 16 straight road games against Top 25 teams since winning at then-No. 11 Tennessee Dec. 23, 1999.

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