Sports

SMU beats UC-Irvine 68-54 to advance in NIT

  • SMU head coach Larry Brown waves to the crowd after winning an NCAA college basketball game against UC Irvine in the first round of the NIT Wednesday, March 19, 2014, in Dallas. SMU won 68-54. (AP Photo/Sharon Ellman)

    SMU head coach Larry Brown waves to the crowd after winning an NCAA college basketball game against UC Irvine in the first round of the NIT Wednesday, March 19, 2014, in Dallas. SMU won 68-54. (AP Photo/Sharon Ellman)  (The Associated Press)

  • UC Irvine guard Luke Nelson (10) and SMU forward Shawn Williams (2) watch as SMU forward Markus Kennedy (5) goes up for a dunk during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the first round of the NIT, Wednesday, March 19, 2014, in Dallas. SMU won 68-54. (AP Photo/Sharon Ellman)

    UC Irvine guard Luke Nelson (10) and SMU forward Shawn Williams (2) watch as SMU forward Markus Kennedy (5) goes up for a dunk during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the first round of the NIT, Wednesday, March 19, 2014, in Dallas. SMU won 68-54. (AP Photo/Sharon Ellman)  (The Associated Press)

  • UC Irvine guard Chris McNealy (5) defends as SMU guard Nick Russell (12) shoots during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the first round of the NIT, Wednesday, March 19, 2014, in Dallas. SMU won 68-54. (AP Photo/Sharon Ellman)

    UC Irvine guard Chris McNealy (5) defends as SMU guard Nick Russell (12) shoots during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the first round of the NIT, Wednesday, March 19, 2014, in Dallas. SMU won 68-54. (AP Photo/Sharon Ellman)  (The Associated Press)

Cannen Cunningham scored 17 points to lead SMU to a 68-54 victory Wednesday night over UC-Irvine in the first round of the NIT and give Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown his first college postseason victory in 26 years.

Ben Moore added 11 points in the Mustangs' first NIT since 2000. Nick Russell chipped in 10.

SMU (24-9) used a 23-7 run in the second half to erase a 35-29 deficit, scoring inside and hitting free throws to balloon the lead to 52-42 with 8:16 left.

However, less than two minutes later, the refereeing crew determined the Mustangs inadvertently were given a one-and-one opportunity too early, and they removed a point from the hosts to make it 51-44 with 7:24 left.

Luke Nelson led UC-Irvine (23-12) with 13 points, and Alex Young chipped in 10. SMU will face either LSU or San Francisco in the second round