Dallas, TX – SMU forward Markus Kennedy scored 18 points, and guard Nic Moore had 11 of his 13 points in the second half as #23 SMU took another step toward its first NCAA tournament berth in 21 years with a 70-55 victory against Central Florida at Moody Coliseum. The Mustangs (23-6) improved to 15-0 at home going into their final home game Wednesday night. The Louisville Cardinals, SMU’s next opponent lost to #21 Memphis 72-66 on Saturday.
Moore, who also had game highs with six assists and four steals for the Mustangs, had consecutive 3-pointers for a 45-27 lead with 13:53 remaining in the second period, 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).
Moore, SMU’s lead guard and sophomore captain, transferred from Illinois State last year and sat out the 2012-2013 NCAA season due to transfer rules. As a freshman for Illinois State, Moore led the team with assists (135) and a NIT birth at Madison Square Garden. The quick point guard, still in his sophomore season will still have two remaining seasons of eligibility with the Mustangs to help continue to rebuild SMU into the prominent program it once was.
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.
SMU returned to the poll last week after beating then #21 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. After all, 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 seven minutes.
Nick Russell scored 10 points in less than nine minutes to start the game, capped by a 3-pointer that SMU up 18-4. He finished with 15. Russell, a redshirt senior transfer from Kansas State is the starting shooting guard for SMU and offers excellent range. Originally from nearby Duncanville, Russell averaged 15 points per game last season for the Mustangs and added several game-winning shots against foes such as Missouri State.
Throughout this game 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.
SMU is back in action on Wednesday night when the No. 7 Louisville Cardinals come to Moody Coliseum in the final 2013-14 home game for the Mustangs.
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We are looking for interns and sales associates. If you’re interested contact us and forward your resume. Thanks to thecatchandshoot.com for the Moore photo.