Big men Kennedy, Moreira lead No. 25 SMU past UConn, 73-55
DALLAS (AP) — Markus Kennedy and Yanick Moreira took the scoring lead for No. 25 SMU in Connecticut’s first trip to the Dallas area since winning the national championship last April.
The Mustangs’ big men were quite a passing tandem as well.
Kennedy and Moreira scored 13 points apiece and combined for a couple of dunks that helped build a big first-half lead in a 73-55 win Saturday night.
The 6-foot-11 Moreira tossed an alley-oop to the 6-9 Kennedy for a dunk and found his frontcourt mate alone under the basket for another easy slam in the final seconds of the half to give the American Athletic Conference-leading Mustangs (21-5, 12-2) a 41-26 lead.
Moreira led SMU with 10 rebounds while Kennedy had eight, and they combined for five assists — three by Kennedy.
“We have good big guys,” SMU coach Larry Brown said. “And a lot of it I think is the fact that we try to get the ball inside and our inside guys can score and they can pass. That’s a big factor.”
Ryan Boatright scored 19 to lead the Huskies (14-10, 7-5), who had a three-game winning streak snapped about 25 miles from where they beat Kentucky last April for the title at the $1.2 billion home of the Dallas Cowboys.
Raucous and sold-out Moody Coliseum on the SMU campus was quite a contrast for UConn after the Final Four in the cavernous palace Jerry Jones built. Plus, students got an early boost when one of their own hit a halfcourt shot to win $18,000 on national TV about nine hours before the late tip-off.
By the end, they were shaking the stands by jumping and chanting just before Nic Moore, who had 10 points and six assists, made them even louder with a 3-pointer for a 67-39 lead. The party was tempered a bit, though, when Kennedy left with what appeared to be a leg or ankle injury in the final 2 minutes. It turned out to be cramps.
Boatright, the sidekick to Shabazz Napier for UConn’s run to the title but trying to carry the load on his own with his backcourt mate gone to the NBA, hit his first two 3-pointers for a 10-3 lead before the Mustangs took control.
The UConn senior was just 2 of 9 from long range the rest of the way and committed two of his game-high four turnovers during an 18-2 SMU run for a 21-12 lead. Sterling Brown had five straight points during the spurt and also scored 13 for the Mustangs.
“He played his heart out, but at the end of the day you’ve got to make the right plays,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. “As a whole, it’s not just Ryan. All of the guys need to step up.”
Ollie didn’t spend much time thinking about the joy of his team’s last trip to the area. “You’re in this season, but we stayed at the same hotel so you get to think about it a little bit there, walk around,” he said. “But at the end of the day you want to take care of business and you’ve got to go on to the next year.”
One of the better efforts of the season for the Mustangs came after they warmed up in black tops with “Family” in Carolina blue on the back. They also wore black socks to honor the late Dean Smith, who coached Brown and had him on his staff at North Carolina in the 1960s before both went on to Hall of Fame careers. There was a pregame moment of silence honoring Smith and Jerry Tarkanian, who died four days apart this past week.
UConn: The Huskies fell to 0-3 against Top 25 teams after going 10-4 during the title run last season. ... UConn fell flat two days after its most impressive win of the season, a 70-45 rout that was Tulsa’s second straight conference loss after a 10-0 start in league play. A loss to SMU was the first.
SMU: The 3-0 series lead over UConn coming into the game included a sweep last season and a victory in Dallas on Dec. 30, 1965. ... The Mustangs set two attendance records for renovated Moody Coliseum, which reopened with a game against UConn last season. They set a game mark at 7,395 and a season record at 110,820 with two home games remaining.
UConn plays at Memphis on Thursday.
SMU hosts Temple on Thursday.