March 1, 2014
DALLAS (AP) -- Markus Kennedy scored 18 points, Nic Moore had 11 of his 13 in the second half and No. 23 SMU took another step toward its first NCAA tournament berth in 21 years with a 70-55 victory against Central Florida on Saturday.
The Mustangs (23-6, 12-4 American Athletic) improved to 15-0 at home, with the last nine coming at newly renovated Moody Coliseum, going into their final home game Wednesday night against seventh-ranked Louisville. The Cardinals lost to No. 21 Memphis 72-66 on Saturday.
Moore, who also had game highs with six assists and four steals, had consecutive 3-pointers for a 45-27 lead with 13:53 remaining, pumping his arms wildly as he stomped up the court with a loud roar from the sixth sellout crowd since Moody reopened in January.
Isaiah Sykes had 18 points to lead UCF (11-16, 3-13).
The win came in SMU's first home game as a ranked team since March 9, 1985, when the Mustangs lost to Arkansas 68-55. Their last home win as a ranked team was a day before that loss.
The Mustangs entered the rankings three weeks ago for the first time since the 1984-85 season but dropped out the next week after a loss at South Florida, which started the day tied with UCF for second-to-last in the AAC.
SMU returned to the poll after beating then-No. 21 Connecticut last weekend to improve to 4-1 against ranked teams, and there was never much doubt that the Mustangs would avoid another bad loss on Saturday. Instead, they won for the 12th time in the past 14 games.
UCF cut its deficit to 10 with a 9-1 run capped by a layup from Sykes but never could get closer than nine in the last 7 minutes.
Nick Russell scored 10 points in less than 9 minutes to start the game, capped by a 3-pointer that SMU up 18-4. He finished with 15.
Kennedy had a game-high eight rebounds.
UCF shot less than 20 percent for most of the first half before warming up and getting within 25-21 on a 3-pointer by Kasey Wilson, who had a chance to make it a one-point game but missed from beyond the arc at the top of the key.
Cunningham had the first five points, including a three-point play after he ended up with the ball at the end of a wild scramble. Manuel, who finished with 10 points, hit two free throws and a jumper.
SMU is back in action next Wednesday night, Mar. 5, when the No. 7 Louisville Cardinals come to Moody Coliseum in the final 2013-14 home game for the Mustangs. Tipoff for Wednesday's battle is set for 6:00 p.m. CT and the game will be aired on CBS SportsNetwork. The game is sold out.