LAS VEGAS (AP) - A couple hundred SMU fans welcomed back coach Larry Brown chanting, “Larry, Larry, Larry,” as he walked to his team’s bench before Tuesday night’s game against Kent State at the Las Vegas Classic.
The Hall of Fame coach was officially back.
Brown finished serving his nine-game suspension by the NCAA to start the season. And his No. 18 Mustangs seemed fired up for him as they picked up where they’ve left off cruising to a 90-74 at the Orleans Arena.
“I was so excited to walk in the dressing room, and more excited seeing the staff and seeing the kids,” said Brown, whose team led throughout and is 10-0. “I told (the players) our goal is to get better in practice and to get better in every game, to represent our conference and school.”
Prior to Tuesday, interim and associate head coach Tim Jankovich led the Mustangs in the first nine wins, including two road wins - at TCU and Stanford.
“We haven’t had any adversity yet,” Brown said. “It was so exciting to see what Tim and the staff did.”
Nic Moore scored 25 points and Keith Frazier added 19 and 10 rebounds to lead SMU.
“Larry Brown is a Hall of Fame coach,” said Frazier, who came off the bench. “You have no choice but to go out and play your butt off for him. Coach wants me to play as I’m capable of playing.”
Jordan Tolbert added 18 points and 10 rebounds for the winners, while Ben Moore had 10 points.
“Coach Brown is one of the best of all-time,” Kent State coach Rob Senderoff said. “I thought they played well and we didn’t particularly play well. We knew they were going to play well with coach Brown coming back. We know they are going to have a great season, but we came here to win.”
SMU also shot from the field 29 of 58 for 50 percent, including 7 of 14 from 3-point range.
Jaylin Walker led Kent State (7-3) with 20 points. Jimmy Hall added 13 points for the Golden Flashes.
Brown was suspended after the NCAA ruled in September that a former men’s basketball administrative assistant completed online course work for a student to meet eligibility requirements.
SMU: This is the team’s best start since 1997-98 when it began 10-0. … The Mustangs also led the nation in rebounding at plus-18 coming into Tuesday, while the Golden Flashes were 44th at plus-7. SMU outrebounded the Golden Flashes 40-30.
“We didn’t do the job we needed to do down low,” Senderoff said. “They are also great at taking care of the ball.”
QUICK START: The Mustangs started quickly, jumping to 14-4 advantage. The Golden Flashes cut their deficit to 22-19 with 7:17 until halftime.
“After that start, we missed the next 9 of 10 shots and a lot of them were down in the paint,” Brown said. “I like that we were getting shots down low. I don’t like to think about the start, but rather how we finish.”
SMU responded with an 11-1 run, but only led 41-33 at halftime after Kent State ended the half scoring six of the final eight points.
PULLING AWAY: The Golden Flashes cut the lead to 52-47 five minutes into the second half, but SMU was relentless the rest of the way, keeping the lead in double digits shortly after that Kent State run.
PERSONAL HIGHS: Moore had season-highs in assists and steals. This was Tolbert’s fifth double-double of the season.
SMU plays in the championship game Wednesday night against the winner of the Colorado-Penn State game which followed.
Kent State faces the loser of that game.
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