DALLAS (AP) — Markus Kennedy and Yanick Moreira scored 13 points apiece and the two big men combined for a couple of dunks that helped build a big first-half lead in No. 25 SMU’s 73-55 win over Connecticut on 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.
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 won the national championship by beating Kentucky last April 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’s return to the Dallas area 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 made them even louder with a 3-pointer for a 67-39 lead. The party was tempered a bit, though, when Kennedy left with an apparent leg or ankle injury in the final 2 minutes.
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.
SMU’s inside game made the biggest difference, though. The Mustangs scored repeatedly around the basket, either getting it down there with a pass or rebounding a missed shot for a bucket. The Mustangs outscored the Huskies 40-20 in the paint.
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 opened 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.
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