TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - There were a lot of things Larry Brown could appreciate about the way SMU played against South Florida on Sunday.
Especially, the way the 12th-ranked Mustangs shared the ball in rebounding from their second loss of the season with a 92-58 rout of the struggling Bulls.
Shake Milton scored 22 points and Nic Moore added 17 to pace a balanced scoring attack for SMU (20-2, 9-2 American Athletic Conference), which shrugged off a three-point road loss to Houston by matching their season high with 14 3-pointers and shooting 60 percent overall.
SMU never trailed, scoring the game’s first 11 points. The Mustangs hit their last six shots before halftime then opened the second half with an 8-0 run to build their lead to 30 points. They finished with a season-high 27 assists on 35 field goals, which may have been most pleasing to Brown.
The Hall of Fame coach said he thought the team got away from moving the basketball and creating an abundance of open looks over the past few weeks while trying to build on the fastest start in school history.
“We were shooting great when we were moving the ball, and then I don’t know what happened,” Brown said.
“Maybe the pressure of everybody talking about how special we were and we had this chance of going undefeated,” he added. “I never thought about that, to be honest. But I think it might have affected our kids.”
Jahmal McMurray led South Florida (5-20, 2-10) with 18 points.
“We started terrible this game,” McMurray said. .
“That was a good team playing extremely well at the right time,” Bulls coach Orlando Antigua added. “That makes for a bad combination for us.”
SMU, which had lost two straight on the road, has matched the best 22-game start in school history. The Mustangs won 26 of their first 28 games before finishing 26-4 in 1955-56.
The conference leaders have topped 20 wins in three of four seasons under Brown, who was suspended for the first nine games of the season and will not be able to take the Mustangs to this year’s NCAA Tournament because of multiple rules infractions.
Milton made 8 of 12 shots, including 6 of 9 from beyond the 3-point arc. Five of Moore’s six field goals were 3-pointers, and the senior guard finished with eight assists.
Jordan Tolbert made all five of his shots on the way 15 points and Markus Kennedy came off the bench to contribute 10 points and grab nine rebounds for SMU.
South Florida clinched its second 20-loss season in three years under Antigua. Jaleel Cousins scored 13 points and Angel Nunez had 12 points and nine rebounds for the Bulls, who trailed by as many as 36 points in the second half.
SMU: The Mustangs improved to 2-2 following a school-best 18-0 start, stopping a two-game road skid included a nine-point setback at Temple and the three-point loss at Houston. SMU has won 27 games each of the past two seasons and its 74 wins since the start of 2013-14 are the most during a three-season span in program history.
South Florida: The Bulls haven’t beaten a ranked team since Feb. 19, 2012, when they upset No. 19 Louisville 58-51 on the road. They haven’t defeated a Top 25 opponent in the Sun Dome since a two-point win over No. 23 Seton Hall on Jan. 13, 2012. USF is 0-3 vs. ranked opponents this season, with two of the three losses to SMU. The Bulls lost to then-No. 1 Kentucky on Nov. 27.
USF’s roster has been depleted by injuries and suspension, leaving the Bulls with only eight players in uniform on Sunday. When starter Bo Ziegler left with a left leg injury in the first half, Antigua was left with two reserves. So, it’s not surprising that SMU finished with a 25-7 edge in bench scoring.
The Mustangs shot 58.3 percent from 3-point range, making 14 of 24. They also made 14 3-pointers against New Hampshire on Dec. 5.
SMU freshman Courtland Sutton made his debut, making a 3-pointer and finishing with three points in 2 minutes. He is a wide receiver on the Mustangs’ football team and is coming off a season in which he set a school freshman record with 862 yards receiving. He had nine touchdown receptions.
SMU hosts Tulsa on Wednesday.
South Florida is at Temple on Feb. 14.
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