DALLAS — SMU’s pursuit of perfection continued Saturday night with a 72-58 victory over South Florida at Moody Coliseum.
The No. 17 Mustangs, who improved to 13-0 overall and 2-0 in the American Athletic Conference, were led by forward Ben Moore’s 12 points and 10 rebounds.
The game also marked the return of SMU coach Larry Brown to the Moody Coliseum bench after he served a nine-game NCAA suspension. SMU had played three games on the road since Brown returned.
“I felt better being around my kids, the first chance,” Brown said. “Now I’ve got to figure out how I can not mess things up.”
SMU forward Jordan Tolbert just missed joining Moore in the double-double category with eight points and 10 rebounds. Overall, SMU outrebounded USF 39-30 to make Brown’s return to the home bench easier.
“We definitely thought the coming home video that they put on the Jumbotron was cool,” Moore said. “It’s great having him back.”
The Bulls (3-12, 0-2) provided the Mustangs with a challenge. They trailed 49-46 with 12:50 to play after a dunk by forward Angel Nunez.
That came after the Mustangs built a 45-35 lead with a 10-1 run that featured a three-point play and a putback by Tolbert.
SMU again went up by double digits when Tolbert hit two free throws in a 13-0 run for a 57-46 lead with eight minutes left en route to a 62-46 advantage with 4:14 left.
“We’ve got to execute and we have to stick with the things we’re having
success with,” USF coach Orlando Antigua said. “But SMU had a little something to do with that as well. They crashed the boards, they got second and third opportunities during that stretch, and we didn’t.”
SMU was down to eight players in uniform — seven on scholarship — but dominated USF in points off the bench, 17-1.
“The key with a short bench is we’ve got to stay out of foul trouble,” Brown said. “I don’t think we have any subs. I don’t look at anybody on our team (as a substitute).”
Guard Keith Frazier is SMU’s latest personnel loss. Frazier left the team and Brown said he did not know if he would return.
“He’s dealing with some personal issues and we’re going to support him and try to help him in any way we can,” Brown said.
The short bench didn’t hurt SMU, which committed just 12 fouls to 21 for USF. The Mustangs shot 26 free throws, making 20, and USF was 8 of 11.
USF led by as many as seven points early, but SMU surged ahead thanks to a 9-0 run to take a 23-18 lead with 7:10 left in the first half. Guard Sterling Brown, who led the Mustangs with 11 points in the half, finished the run with a 3-pointer and a lay-in.
Brown hit another 3-pointer to give SMU its largest lead of the half at 27-20 with 5:10 to go before halftime. Brown was 3 of 4 from 3-point range in the first half, which ended with the Mustangs up 33-30.
Brown, point guard Nic Moore and forward Markus Kennedy finished with 13 points each for SMU. USF was led by guard Jahmal McMurray with 17 points.
The Bulls shot 50 percent from the field in the first half but cooled to 36.7 percent in the second half.