DALLAS — Larry Brown said he didn't know what to expect when he walked into Moody Coliseum.
"We wondered if we'd have the support, if it would be as loud as the old place," Brown said, "but when we played the video and heard the crowd … it was a good feeling."
Brown, 73, and SMU opened up their new building with big win over a brand-name program. The place was sold out, the first home sellout crowd for the Mustangs since 2001, and they beat UConn 74-65.
Like many of the programs joining the American Athletic Conference, SMU is trying to put itself on the college basketball map. The program hasn't been in the NCAA Tournament since 1993 — the last time, in fact, it knocked off a ranked opponent at home.
And other programs don't have Larry Brown, who has been coaching for more than 40 years, and has won titles in the NBA and NCAA. Now they have a state-of-the-art arena and attached practice facility to go with him.
"We have everything now," Brown said. "We have a great school. I have as good a staff as anyone could want. A great league, a great city. Now it's up to us to make them better, and make kids feel that if they come here, they'll be supported like this, get a good education and be coached. I don't look at any other program and think they have more than us."
UConn AD Warde Manuel arrived and toured the new arena, which got a $47 million renovation before it opened. (Perhaps Manuel was taking notes?) The new Moody cut its seating capacity to about 7,000, but added suites. There were 7,166 in attendance for the UConn game. It's located near downtown, but Dallas is a pro town, and Texas is a college football state. It will take more games like this.
"They want to make this a special place," UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. "With a win in their first game, they're on their way. [SMU] will be drilled the right way. They're going to play the game the right way, with intensity."
Shabazz Napier, who scored 27 points against Houston, started this game the way he started the last one — not doing much. He took only one shot in the first half, missed it, and made two free throws. He scored 10 in the second half. He was not made available for reporters after the game.
"He was making some great passes," Kevin Ollie said, "but we weren't making any shots, either. … I imagine we missed 12 layups around the rim. If we make half of those, it's a different game."
Napier, 2 for 9 from the floor, did not get many open shots. He made one pull-up jumper, open in transition. UConn could rebound well enough to get its fast break going. Ollie thought he got discouraged when teammates were not making shots, or not ready to receive his passes under the basket.
"But he has to keep making good plays," Ollie said.
Ollie started Tyler Olander at center, so it was his fourth different starting lineup in the last five games, and his third different starter at that position since Dec. 22. Phil Nolan played only two minutes. Omar Calhoun played 13, Amida Brimah, 13. Calhoun, 1-for-4 from the floor, continues to struggle. "He's got to play defense," Ollie said, "and I'll play him more minutes. He can't stay on the floor. It's not just Omar, a lot of guys are not playing defense. There will be some changes. " … The Jazz, Thunder, T-Wolves and 76ers had scouts at the game. With the Knicks in town to play the Mavericks Sunday, coach Mike Woodson, who played and coached under Brown, was at the game. … Allen Iverson did not make it, but former Sixers teammate Dikembe Mutombo did, and he visited SMU's locker room. … In the first week of its history, the AAC is proving to be unpredictable; Memphis lost to Cincinnati at home on Saturday. … UConn's next opponent is out of conference, but Harvard (12-1) does not figure to be an easy game at Gampel next Wednesday.