No. 8 SMU held off Houston, 77-73, on Tuesday to remain the only unbeaten team in America. The game was tied at 39 at halftime, but the Mustangs made enough plays down the stretch to hang on for the home win.
Four SMU players finished in double figures, inclining Nic Moore, who had a game-high 23 points, Sterling Brown, who scored 15, and Markus Kennedy, who had 16 points off the bench.
“I’m just playing hard for the team, playing hard for the coaches and getting the job done,” Brown said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “(Houston) did a good job. They came out and hit shots. The gave us their best shot. We played like we usually do in the end and we got the job done. That’s all we’re looking for.”
SMU shot just 3-of-13 (23.1 percent) from three-point range but got in the paint early and often. The Mustangs shot 49.0 percent from the floor and attempted twice as many free throws as Houston, 32-16. They also had six blocks and six steals, forcing 12 turnovers in the process.
“We just try to stay active on both ends,” Brown said. “The guards, we try to dig and get easy shots, easy buckets and lead-outs in transition.”
SMU, which is ineligible for postseason play, is now 18-0, including 7-0 in the American.
“We’re for each other,” Brown said. “We’re focused on whoever’s in the locker room. Whoever’s going to go out on the court with us, that’s who we’re doing it for. We ain’t focusing on nobody else on the outside. If you’re going to be on the team with us, we’re going to ride or die for each other. That’s the concept in the locker room. We’re just being there for each other.”
Head coach Larry Brown has been a calming presence for a program that was placed on probation, lost scholarships and saw players transfer in the face of sanctions.
“He wants the best for you,” Brown said. “He always teaches you to do something for another person, help another person and it’ll come back to you. He just wants the best for everybody that he’s around. Whether it’s the managers, whether it’s his staff, whether it’s his fans, he just wants the best for everybody that steps into his life. I really appreciate it. He’s taught me a lot and I’m still learning from him.”
SMU plays at Temple (9-7) this Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. The Mustangs, as of now, do not have a ranked team on their schedule. They won’t be able to play for a national title, but an undefeated season would certainly be a nice consolation prize.
“We can’t change (the postseason ban),” Brown said, “so we’re going to go out here and win every game.”