No. 23 SMU takes down Rutgers
Piscataway, NJ (SportsNetwork.com) - With Nic Moore scoring 16 of his game- high 21 points after intermission, No. 23 SMU pulled away in the second half to record a 77-65 victory over Rutgers in an American Athletic Conference clash.
Moore made good on 4-of-6 attempts from 3-point range over the final 20 minutes as the Mustangs (20-5, 9-3 AAC) prevailed in their first game as a nationally ranked team since 1985.
Nick Russell contributed 16 points in SMU's ninth triumph in its last 10 outings, while Cannen Cunningham finished with 10 points and eight rebounds.
"Proud of our guys," said Mustangs head coach Larry Brown. "It wasn't an easy trip."
Myles Mack paced Rutgers (10-15, 4-8) with 17 points and Kadeem Jack had 15 along with eight rebounds in the loss.
"For 40 minutes we stayed together, we shared the game and we just played against a good team that's on a good roll right now," Scarlet Knights head coach Eddie Jordan remarked.
The Mustangs were clinging to a 41-40 lead when Moore caught fire from the perimeter, knocking down a trio of triples within a span of two-plus minutes to cap a 14-2 run that created some distance. The last of those makes staked SMU to a 55-42 advantage with 10:47 to play.
Rutgers managed to close the gap behind Mack, who netted 15 of his points in the second half. His trey with just under six minutes to go brought the Scarlet Knights within 64-57, and the margin was whittled to six when Jack hit 1-of-2 from the line shortly afterward to finish off a 7-2 burst.
SMU answered by scoring the next seven points, with Moore striking again from long range during the spurt which all but sealed the outcome.
"I thought we responded great," said Brown. "I've watched Rutgers, they're capable of beating anybody."
With Marcus Kennedy, SMU's top rebounder and second-leading scorer, confined to the bench for nearly the entire first half after picking up his second foul just over three minutes in, the Mustangs struggled to separate from Rutgers for much of the opening period. The teams were knotted at 21-21 with under eight minutes left in the frame, and SMU held only a 28-25 edge when Jack scored inside 6:17 prior to the break.
The Scarlet Knights didn't make a field goal over the remainder of the half, however, missing its final nine shots as the Mustangs lengthened the margin to 36-29 at the break.
SMU was up by eight early in the second half, but Wally Judge netted five points to spearhead a 7-0 run that pulled Rutgers within 39-38 with 16 minutes to go.
The game was originally scheduled for Thursday, but was postponed by the snow storm that struck the Northeast region ... Kennedy, who had 18 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks in SMU's 70-56 win over the Knights in Dallas on Jan. 21, registered eight points and six boards while limited to just 17 minutes ... The Mustangs moved 15 games over .500 from the first time since the 1999-00 squad was 21-5 and notched its first 20-win campaign since that season ... Rutgers outscored SMU 32-30 in the paint, only the second time in the Mustangs' 24 contests this season it lost that battle.