Although the team has been banned from the postseason and is now down to seven players, No. 15 SMU keeps finding ways to win during the best start in school history.
The Mustangs are ineligible for postseason tournaments after the NCAA ruled that a secretary had done Keith Frazier's coursework in the summer of 2013, and coach Larry Brown was suspended nine games for withholding information and lying when first questioned.
That hasn't gotten in the way of a historic start that they hope leads to the school's first consecutive league titles since a three-year run in the Southwest Conference from 1965-67.
SMU was down to six players Thursday against Cincinnati after Frazier left the team for personal reasons and Sterling Brown was ejected for coming on the floor during an early fracas. Markus Kennedy also was forced to play 27 minutes despite nursing an ankle injury.
Trailing by seven points with 3:40 remaining, the Mustangs completed what seemed to be an unlikely comeback when Jordan Tolbert tipped in a missed shot with 28 seconds left before recording one of the team's season-high 11 blocked shots to preserve a 59-57 home win.
Ben Moore finished with 15 points with five blocks, while Nic Moore scored 14 and hit a pair of big 3-pointers to key the rally. Nic Moore, the reigning American Athletic Conference Player of the Year, has raised his play of late by averaging 18.2 points over his last six games.
"He appreciates the big moment," Brown said. "This has been a difficult situation because I'm looking at three seniors and you think about what they've been deprived of. It's one thing for me ... but they just care for each other and try for each other."
Though they rank first among AAC teams with a 51.9 field-goal percentage and second with 81.5 points per game, the Mustangs (14-0, 3-0) have sent their last two opponents to the free-throw line a total of 15 times while limiting them to an average of 57.5 points.
SMU, one of two undefeated teams along with South Carolina, hopes to continue that trend as it seeks its best league start since opening 4-0 in the WAC in 2001-02.
The Knights (8-5, 2-0), who haven't won their first three league games since 2012-13 in Conference USA, have averaged 78.9 points during a 7-2 stretch. A.J. Davis has keyed the AAC start with a combined 39 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in the two games.
Adonys Henriquez led the way with a season-high 20 points while hitting 4 of 8 from 3-point range Wednesday and Davis added 16 points in a 75-64 home win over South Florida. Henriquez burned the Mustangs for 22 points and six 3s in a 75-56 road loss Jan. 31.
Nic Moore had 21 points and five 3s in a 70-61 road win earlier that month for SMU, which has won the past four meetings along with 43 of its past 46 games at Moody Coliseum.
The Knights have dropped 12 straight versus ranked foes by an average of 15.5 points.