February 12, 2016

SMU can't do anything about its NCAA Tournament ineligibility and may soon relinquish control of the American Athletic Conference. Gonzaga is in a similar battle in the West Coast Conference and less of a lock for March Madness than in years past.

The 16th-ranked Mustangs and unranked Bulldogs take a break from their respective conference races Saturday night in Dallas, and a win would bolster Gonzaga's tournament resume should an automatic bid not materialize.

Considering SMU (20-3) has lost three of five, that might also have been a concern developing for the Mustangs if NCAA sanctions didn't prohibit the program from any postseason competition. After Wednesday's 82-77 home loss to Tulsa, they couldn't feel much further removed from their 18-0 start.

"We've got to get back to where we were at in the beginning of the year where we knew what we were about and we knew what we were going to go out there and do," said Markus Kennedy, who scored all 13 of his points in the second half. "It's real easy just to get complacent and just to be nonchalant about the rest of the season.

"We can't let that happen."

SMU is now tied with Temple atop the AAC after a 2-3 span in the league during which opponents have averaged 73.6 points and shot 45.0 percent, including 38.3 from 3-point range. That's up from 61.9 on 39.3 and 33.0 during the unbeaten start.

"Everybody has all these visions," coach Larry Brown said. "I knew we were going to get exposed a lot when we were playing some really, really quality teams. And as the season goes on, you get in conference, you're playing against some really, really quality teams."

The Golden Hurricane shot 58.5 percent, essentially wiping out Nic Moore's 27 points on 10-of-17 shooting, including 6 of 10 from long range. SMU's top scorer has averaged 20.5 points on 50.0 percent from both inside and outside the arc in the last four games.

He wasn't as effective as Gonzaga won last season's meeting 72-56 in Spokane on Nov. 17, 2014, while holding the Mustangs to 31.1 percent shooting. Moore scored 10 and shot 3 for 9, but Gonzaga top scorer Kyle Wiltjer wasn't much better with 10 on 4-of-10 shooting. Domantas Sabonis had 13 points and nine rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench.

The sophomore has taken on a larger role this season while averaging 17.4 points and 11.5 rebounds, including 19.3 and 11.0 in his last three while shooting 68.0 percent.

He had 17 and 11 in Thursday's 92-66 win at Portland, but it was Wiltjer leading the way with 21 points while making 5 of 9 from 3-point range. It was part of the team's 15-for-26 mark, and though the Bulldogs remain inconsistent game to game from long range, they're shooting 41.9 percent over the last eight.

Gonzaga (20-5) reached 20 wins for a 19th consecutive season with its sixth straight victory after losing two of three to spark a battle in the conference, but the Bulldogs have turned it on during their streak with victories by an average of 20.5 points.

Out of the WCC, Gonzaga played plenty of competition on SMU's level, beating Washington, then-No. 18 Connecticut and Tennessee while losing to then-No. 25 Texas A&M, then-No. 19 Arizona and UCLA.

Knocking off SMU would be the Bulldogs' most impressive road win and their first against the Top 25 since winning at Oklahoma State on Dec. 31, 2012, though the three such losses since have come by a combined 10 points.

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