No. 24 SMU heads into final week with 74-53 win over Tulane
DALLAS (AP) NCAA probation leaves No. 24 SMU with trying to win the American Athletic Conference regular-season title as its biggest remaining goal.
The Mustangs, who beat Tulane 74-53 on Sunday, will see their season end early because of sanctions that bar the team from playing in any postseason competition including the conference tournament.
Ben Moore scored 16 points and Sterling Brown added 15 as SMU (24-4, 12-4) moved back into a first-place tie in the American with Temple.
This is the fourth SMU team to win 24 regular-season games. Last year's team was 27-7 and went to the NCAA Tournament.
Coach Larry Brown only refers to the postseason ban indirectly in phrases such as ''what's going on'' or ''that other stuff.''
''I think it's affected us for the last month,'' said Brown, who sat out the season's first nine games as part of the NCAA ruling. ''I don't think about that other stuff - stupid people making a stupid decision, in my mind. The reality is what these kids have accomplished. They did it with obstacles.''
''We think about it, but we just try and look at the next game,'' freshman Jarrey Foster said.
Malik Morgan had 15 points and Louis Dabney added 12 for Tulane (10-19, 3-13), which dropped into a last-place tie with East Carolina.
SMU didn't resemble a conference leader in the first half and trailed 29-28 at halftime. The Mustangs committed 12 turnovers - nearly their season average for a game - and shot only 37.9 percent against the Green Wave's shifting defense.
But the Mustangs outshot the Green Wave 64 percent to 32 percent in the second half to improve to 50 percent for the game. That equaled their season average, which ranks sixth in NCAA Division I.
''They came out to start the second half with really good resolve and energy,'' Tulane coach Ed Conroy said. ''Everything in the second half was dictated by their defensive efforts.''
Nic Moore, the Mustangs' leading scorer at 14.6 points per game going in, was shut out in the first half and finished with five points on 1-for-9 shooting to match his lowest output in his three seasons at SMU.
''He's trying to guard; he's trying to do the right thing,'' Brown said of Moore, ''It's more apparent to his teammates than maybe it is to other people.''
Junior walk-on Jonathan Wilfong returned to SMU's bench on Sunday after making his first career start and playing the first 4:29 last Thursday in his hometown of Memphis. Wilfong has played in 15 games this season, typically a handful of minutes in each game.
''I didn't know until about 15 minutes before,'' Wilfong said. His family and friends might have guessed before the announcement of the starters, when he stood with the other starters along the baseline. He had one assist and one foul.
Against Tulane, Wilfong played the final 2:17 and had a driving layup with his non-shooting hand that brought screams from the crowd.
''I like to say I'm amphibious,'' he said.
CLIMBING THE LIST
Dabney's 12 points leave him 25 short of 10th place on Tulane's career scoring list with 1,406. He has led the Green Wave in scoring in 14 games this season.
SMU will finish at Cincinnati next Sunday following Thursday night's home finale against Connecticut. It will be the last home game for Nic Moore (who transferred from Illinois State in 2012), Markus Kennedy (who transferred from Villanova in 2012) and Jordan Tolbert (who transferred from Texas Tech in 2014).
''Senior Night's never fun,'' Brown said.
Tulane: Dylan Ostekowski came in with four straight doubles-doubles and finished with seven points and four rebounds. ... Jernard Jarreau, who has started 11 games this season, missed his 10th straight game with an ankle injury but might return this season.
SMU: Tolbert scored all 11 of his points in the second half. . The Mustangs went into the game ranked seventh in Division I in rebound margin at plus-10.1 and outrebounded the Green Wave 42-40.
Tulane: is at Central Florida on Wednesday.
SMU: hosts Connecticut on Thursday.