SMU forward Jordan Tolbert (23) makes a shot over Tulane forward Dylan Osetkowski (21) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in New Orleans, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Max Becherer)
Max Becherer
January 17, 2016

NEW ORLEANS (AP) SMU coach Larry Brown figured that being unbeaten could become a burden on his team sooner or later.

That's what Brown sensed was happening to his 10th-ranked Mustangs when they visited Tulane on Sunday, but he couldn't complain about the way they snapped out of it in the final minutes.

Markus Kennedy scored 13 points and SMU overcame uncharacteristically poor shooting, pulling away late to remain the nation's only unbeaten Division I team with a 60-45 victory.

''The score is no indication of what kind of game we were in,'' Brown said, complimenting Tulane's defensive intensity with ''getting us out of synch.''

''This is the first time I saw where I thought we were thinking about the fact that we've had a pretty good season going,'' Brown added. ''We might have put a little pressure on ourselves. But it's all learning for us.''

Jordan Tolbert and Nic Moore scored 12 points each for the Mustangs (17-0, 6-0 American Athletic Conference), who shot a season-worst 40.4 percent (21 of 52) and did not take the lead for good until Ben Moore's layup as he was fouled made it 33-30 with 12:41 to go.

''We just felt like we didn't execute on offense the way we should have. We weren't moving the ball like we usually do,'' said Ben Moore, who scored 11 points. ''We weren't surprised. We weren't frustrated or anything. We've always got to persevere. We know teams are going to give us their best shot.''

SMU is ineligible for any postseason play because of NCAA rules violations.

Melvin Frazier scored 11 points and Malik Morgan 10 for Tulane (8-11, 1-5), which has lost five of six games.

''We did a lot of good things, played extremely hard and were really connected on the defensive end,'' Tulane coach Ed Conroy said. ''We put them in position where they would have to dig down a little bit, and credit to them the way they executed in the last 6 or 7 minutes.''

Louis Dabney's 3-pointer gave Tulane a 28-27 lead early in the second half, and the Green Wave briefly widened it to 30-27 when Frazier stole the ball from Sterling Brown and converted a breakaway layup.

SMU responded with a pivotal 8-0 run. But while the Mustangs never trailed again, Tulane remained within single digits for most of the second half and trailed 48-41 after Frazier's dunk of Morgan's alley-oop pass with 4:14 left.

The Mustangs made their first five shots before missing their next 10 over the next 9:06. Yet Tulane only managed to tie the game at 11 during that span.

SMU led 23-19 after making just 11 of 27 shots and no free throws in the first half.

''It was a miracle we had a lead. We made some really silly, uncharacteristic plays, but I think a lot of that had to do with the way they were prepared and their energy,'' Larry Brown said. ''Their effort was incredible. I don't know if we matched their intensity until the last 10 minutes.''

TIP-INS

SMU: Going back to last season, SMU has won 13 of 14 road games coming in, including all five this season. ... SMU entered shooting 52 percent from the field, the fourth-highest percentage in the nation. ... Brown, who came in shooting 73 percent for the season, went 2 of 7.

Tulane: The Green Wave had not hosted a team ranked in the top 10 in the AP poll since Feb. 20, 2008, when then-No. 1 Memphis, coached by John Calipari and led on the court by guard Derrick Rose, easily dispatched Tulane 97-71. ... Reserve center Blake Paul missed two dunks and finished with no points on 0-of-4 shooting.

HUSTLE POINTS

SMU went 1 of 10 from 3-point range, but made up for it by outscoring Tulane 32-16 in the paint. Meanwhile, the Mustangs overcame their 15 turnovers by converting Tulane's 20 turnovers into 21 points.

''We're a gritty team so we just got to find a way to win by any means and we played well on defense so that's got to be our M.O. all the time,'' Ben Moore said.

ROAD SUPPORT

SMU fans filled nearly two sections behind the Mustangs' bench and chanted, ''UN-DE-FEAT-ED!'' as the final minute wound down. Larry Brown saluted those fans, who included New Orleans Saints punter Thomas Morstead, who played football at SMU.

''I think a lot of people who have a relationship with SMU really feel strongly about this group and want to care about them and let them know they care,'' Brown said.

UP NEXT

SMU: Hosts Houston on Tuesday night.

Tulane: Visits Connecticut on Tuesday night.

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