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PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Nearly four weeks after his team lost by 14 points to SMU in Dallas, Rutgers coach Eddie Jordan saw a silver lining despite a similar defeat Friday night.
Myles Mack had 17 points and Kadeem Jack scored 15, but the Scarlet Knights (10-15, 4-8 American Athletic Conference) were unable to post consecutive league triumphs for the first time this season, falling 77-65 to the No. 23 Mustangs.
"I see improvement in the way we're going, the way we're playing," Jordan said. "I really didn't have a problem with the way we played tonight. I thought we had terrific effort, we shared the basketball, we played the game plan for the most part but there was some breakdowns, some missed assignments.
"But 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."
Nic Moore scored 16 of his 21 points in the second half, Nick Russell had 16 points and SMU (20-5, 9-3) reached the 20-win plateau for just the second time in 13 years and earned its first win as a ranked team since the 1984-85 season.
The Mustangs led for the game's final 32 minutes to win their fourth straight and for the ninth time in 10 games. SMU held Rutgers without a field goal over the final 6:17 of the first half and went into halftime with a 36-29 lead.
The Scarlet Knights used a 7-0 run to rally within 41-40 with 15 minutes to play, but Moore drilled three 3-pointers during a 14-2 run to extend the Mustangs' advantage to 12 and Rutgers never got within six points the rest of the way.
"We still lost, but we just lost by less and played harder," said Jack, a junior forward who helped the Scarlet Knights outscore SMU 32-30 in the paint. "That's about it."
The Scarlet Knights lost 70-56 to SMU on Jan. 21.
The game originally scheduled for Thursday night was pushed back a day by the snowstorm that blanketed the Northeast. It marked the first time Rutgers postponed a home men's basketball game due to weather since December 2003.
"This is college basketball, this is what you want," Jordan said, refusing to use the weather adversity as an excuse. "You want to come in here and play and you want to practice and go play one of the best teams in the country. We had three games like that, so this is where we have to test our mettle as far as what our personality is going to be, how we're going to move forward with this program and they showed some positive signs tonight."