December 23, 2015

Having kept SMU unbeaten in his return to the sidelines, Larry Brown will next try to lead the Mustangs to their best start in school history.

Brown faces one of his former players in Colorado coach Tad Boyle on Wednesday night in the Las Vegas Classic championship game, as No. 18 SMU looks to improve to 11-0 against a Buffaloes team seeking a 12th straight win.

Brown was suspended for nine games and SMU was barred from postseason tournaments this season after the NCAA ruled in September that a former administrative assistant for the program did course work to keep an athlete academically eligible.

Mustangs coach-in-waiting Tim Jankovich led the team until Brown returned for Tuesday's 90-74 victory over Kent State, the team's fifth in a row by double digits. SMU has won those by an average of 34.2 points en route to matching its 10-0 start from 1997-98.

"I was so excited to walk in the dressing room, and more excited seeing the staff and seeing the kids," Brown said. "I told (the players) our goal is to get better in practice and to get better in every game, to represent our conference and school.

"We haven't had any adversity yet. It was so exciting to see what Tim and the staff did."

Nic Moore had 25 points Tuesday, giving him 43 in the past two games. Keith Frazier chipped in 19 points and 10 rebounds while Jordan Tolbert had 18 with 10 boards.

Tolbert is averaging 19.8 points on 63.4 percent shooting and 15.3 rebounds in his last four contests. Fourth in the nation in shooting at 52.9 percent, the Mustangs have hit at least half their shots in five straight.

"Larry Brown is a Hall of Fame coach," Frazier said. "You have no choice but to go out and play your butt off for him. Coach wants me to play as I'm capable of playing."

The Mustangs will likely need another high-powered effort against Colorado, which is off to its best start since 1941-42, when it began 14-0 and eventually went to the Final Four.

The Buffaloes (11-1), who received votes in the latest AP poll, held off Penn State for a 71-70 victory Tuesday, their 11th straight for their longest since taking 12 in a row in 1961-62.

Josh Scott led the way with 18 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. The senior forward is averaging 21.0 points on 63.5 percent shooting in his six games this month.

Boyle played in the first two of Brown's five seasons with the Jayhawks and was team captain as a senior. Colorado has scrimmaged SMU in each of the last four seasons but this matchup will resonate even more.

"He shaped me as a coach, without a doubt," Boyle told the school's official website. "When I think of my basketball philosophy and value system, my core values, it traces back to Larry Brown and Larry Hicks, my high school coach."

Colorado's lone blemish this season came in its only matchup with a ranked team, a 68-62 defeat to then-No. 7 Iowa State on Nov. 13 in South Dakota. The Buffaloes have dropped nine straight games to Top 25 opponents since a 100-91 victory over No. 10 Oregon on Jan. 5, 2014.

Colorado has also shot a combined 36.9 percent in its two neutral-site games this season.

The Buffaloes are facing SMU for the first time since a 70-67 road loss Jan. 5, 2009, and are 4-2 in the all-time series.

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