Hartford, CT (SportsNetwork.com) - In front of a supportive crowd, reigning national champion Connecticut made one last run in the second half before No. 20 SMU ended the Huskies' hopes of returning to the NCAA Tournament.
The Mustangs shot 25-of-31 from the free-throw line to beat UConn 62-54 and win the American Athletic Conference Tournament, making the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 22 years.
SMU (27-6) made just two shots from the field in the final 10 minutes but was able to hang on. Markus Kennedy scored 14 of his 15 points in the first half to lead the top-seeded Mustangs.
SMU earned a No. 6 seed in the South Region and will open against UCLA on Thursday in Louisville, Kentucky, in the program's first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1993.
"I don't know if any team had to go on a home court to win a conference tournament," said SMU coach Larry Brown. "I'm so proud of them. These seniors have been amazing."
Rodney Purvis scored a career-high 29 points, but it was not enough for the sixth-seeded Huskies (20-14). His teammates combined to shoot just 5-of-27.
"We didn't give it away. They came and took it," said UConn coach Kevin Ollie. "That's a great team we faced."
After a dominant first half, SMU continued to stifle UConn's offense, and Yanick Moreira's dunk at 13:11 in the second half gave SMU a 17 point lead. Purvis, though, scored the next six points to try and spark the Huskies one last time.
After Nic Moore's layup briefly interrupted Connecticut's momentum, Daniel Hamilton scored five straight points, including a three-point play that cut the Huskies' deficit to eight with 7 1/2 minutes to play.
There were 3 1/2 minutes left when Ryan Boatright hit a pair of free throws to pull the Huskies within five before the game started to get away from them. SMU scored the next six from the free throw line before Cannen Cunningham fouled Omar Calhoun attempting a 3 to give UConn a little more life.
Calhoun hit all three from the charity stripe, and after Kennedy split a pair of free throws on the ensuing possession, Purvis connected from long distance again to cut the Mustangs' lead to six with 23 seconds remaining.
UConn would not score again, and Cunningham drained two free throws to secure the title.
The Huskies did not hit a shot from the field for 10 minutes during one long stretch in the first half.
In the meantime, Kennedy scored 14 points to help the Mustangs lead 33-19 at the break. Late in the half, Purvis hit 3s on back-to-back possessions temporarily cut Connecticut's deficit to single digits, but Ben Moore scored the last six points of the half to extend SMU's advantage.
This was SMU's first appearance in a conference championship game since 1988 when it won the Southwest Conference title ... Nic Moore, the AAC Player of the Year, finished with 11 points for SMU ... UConn's Amida Brimah blocked seven shots ... SMU's reserves outscored UConn's by a 29-8 margin ... Boatright shot 1-for-12 from the floor and finished with just seven points.