Short-handed No. 15 SMU still undefeated, beats UCF 88-73
DALLAS (AP) Short-handed No. 15 SMU can make a lot of 3-pointers and also put on quite a show with alley-oop passes that lead to rim-rattling dunks. Except those plays don't generally go hand-in-hand.
Halfway through the season in which they are banned from the postseason because of NCAA infractions, the Mustangs are still undefeated after an 88-73 victory over UCF on Sunday that included an attempted alley-oop that became a 3-pointer.
SMU (15-0, 4-0 American Athletic Conference) took control with an early 15-0 run that included a 57-second span with three 3-pointers. The first of those 3s came when Sterling Brown's alley-oop pass to Jordan Tolbert went through the hoop instead.
''I wanted the lob, but he got three points, so I'll take it,'' said Tolbert, who was in the air but got his hands out of the way and grabbed the rim only after the score.
''Yeah, we practice the alley-oop 3-pointer. We want to make it look like it's a pass, but it's actually a shot and they don't guard as well,'' associate head coach Tim Jankovich joked. ''I don't know that I've ever seen that.''
No. 22 South Carolina (15-0) and SMU are the only undefeated Division I teams. But the Mustangs know they will play only play 30 games this season, because of a postseason ban as part of NCAA sanctions handed down last fall that included Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown missing the team's first nine games.
Ben Moore had a career-high 23 points on 11-of-17 shooting and Nic Moore added 20 for SMU, which had only seven scholarship players and two walk-ons in uniform. The Mustangs finished with nine 3s and eight dunks.
Justin McBride, the 6-foot-10, 325-pound center, had 20 points and nine rebounds to lead UCF (8-6, 2-1). Matt Williams had 12 points on four 3s, and A.J. Davis scored 10 points.
Like he did during Brown's suspension to start the season, Jankovich directed the team after halftime Sunday. The 75-year-old coach wasn't feeling well all day and experienced some symptoms of vertigo, an issue he has dealt with at times in the past. He didn't come back on the court for the second half.
Tolbert added 19 points and Sterling Brown 13 as the Mustangs maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the game after scoring their 15 consecutive points in just over 2 1/2 minutes, going up 22-8 with 14 1/2 minutes left in the first half.
''I thought we got off to a good start the first couple of minutes of the game. I think we were up 8-7 one time,'' UCF coach Donnie Jones said. ''Obviously, they had a 15-0 run that really changed the whole basketball game.''
BACKING UP THE COMEBACK
The win over UCF came three days after SMU wiped out a seven-point deficit in the final 3:40 to beat Cincinnati. ''It was important for us to validate the Cincinnati win with this one,'' Tolbert said.
Junior guard Keith Frazier missed his third game in a row because of personal issues, and his future with the team is still uncertain. Team officials said his status with the team is unchanged and he remains on the roster. Online course work for Frazier prior to his enrollment at SMU was part of the NCAA investigation that led to sanctions. He averaged 11.9 points and 4.4 rebounds in his 10 games this season.
UCF: The Knights missed 11 consecutive shots over more than 6 minutes in the first half, which included the span of SMU's big run. ... UCF has lost its last five games against the Mustangs.
SMU: The best previous season start for the Mustangs had been in 1997-98, when they won their first 10 games. ... Overall, the only longer winning streak is the 20 in a row during 1955-56. ... SMU is 69-17 since the start of the 2013-14 season.
UCF: hosts East Carolina on Saturday.
SMU: at East Carolina on Wednesday night.