GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP) — No. 10 SMU has found a bright spot in only having seven scholarship players: Plenty of touches for everyone.
Ben Moore scored 17 points and the Mustangs remained unbeaten by routing East Carolina 79-55 on Wednesday night.
Six of the seven SMU players who played the first 39 minutes reached double figures in either scoring or assists, strong production from a group that's become so short-handed that coach Larry Brown says they practice 4 on 4.
"We're all learning how to adjust, but they're a unique group of kids who care about each other," Brown said. "We know it's not going to get any easier."
Markus Kennedy had 11 points and 10 rebounds, Jordan Tolbert finished with 15 points and Nic Moore had a career-high 12 assists for the Mustangs (16-0, 5-0 American Athletic Conference), who had five double-figure scorers for the fourth time this season.
Playing their first game as a top-10 team in 31 years, they never trailed and shot 52.5 percent while extending the best start — and second-longest winning streak — in school history. The pass-first Mustangs had assists on 23 of their 31 baskets.
"This win right here solidifies what we've been doing all season," Kennedy said.
Caleb White and B.J. Tyson scored 15 points apiece to lead the Pirates (8-9, 0-4), who shot 33 percent in the second half and lost their fourth straight to remain one of two teams winless in AAC play.
Shake Milton scored 13 points and Sterling Brown had 11 for SMU, which put this one away by opening the second half with a 17-4 run. The Mustangs held East Carolina scoreless for five minutes and pushed their lead into the 20s on a 3-pointer by Milton that made it 58-36 with just over 13 minutes left. The Pirates never got closer than 17 the rest of the way.
SMU moved into the top 10 earlier this week for the first time since 1984-85, when the Mustangs climbed to No. 2 with future NBA center Jon Koncak patrolling the paint in Dallas. Unlike that team, this group won't play in the postseason due to NCAA sanctions, meaning the finish line comes March 6 at Cincinnati.
So while these Mustangs won't win a national championship, they kept themselves on track to win all their games.
"I'm not sure that they have NBA players, like an NBA guy, but they have a lot of really, really good high-level college players," East Carolina coach Jeff Lebo said. "They play so much the right way and share the ball. It's really beautiful to watch."