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SMU basketball is a hot ticket in Dallas

DALLAS -- There’s wasn’t any red carpet leading into Moody Coliseum on Wednesday night, but there should have been one.

There was president George W. Bush, a pitching wedge away from the library that bears his name, cheering from the front row with his wife, Laura, and daughter Jenna. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was there, too. So was Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, standing with quarterback Tony Romo and tight end Jason Witten on the baseline, soaking in the crowd.

That’s what Larry Brown, an A-lister himself, has done for the Southern Methodist Mustangs. His basketball team and its renovated arena have become a main attraction in Dallas.

SMU didn’t beat its fifth ranked opponent on Wednesday, falling 84-71 to Louisville. The fact that Brown was clearly disappointed about it to the point where he didn’t want to talk about how far his program has come or any big picture thoughts on the season shows where this program is headed.

“You see why they’re a championship team,” Brown said.

Brown blamed himself for SMU’s second-half struggles, though the real culprit was Louisville guard Russ Smith, who made just about everything he put up in the second half.

“Coaches are supposed to help kids handle adversity and I didn’t do a very good job of that,” Brown said.

But Brown’s done a terrific job of making SMU relevant again.

And Moody Coliseum was rocking on Wednesday. The students were especially rowdy, bouncing up and down and providing a plenty of decibels.

It was just a few years ago that Moody was a place you could go and carry on a pleasant conversation during the game while watching basketball. If you wanted to chat on Wednesday, you had to yell at the person beside you.

That’s how winning buildings are supposed to sound.

The smartest thing SMU did was take seats out. They put suites up at the top of the facility. But rather than have a 10,000-seat venue that might not get full consistently, SMU has people right up against the court. It’s loud and it’s crowded. Wednesday was the seventh sellout of the season.

Most fans wore white “Moody Magic” T-shirts provided by the school. And they acted as another defender, trying desperately to stop Smith with their words. For the first time at home all season, it didn’t work.

The fact that the loss gnawed enough at Brown that he wasn’t in any mood to talk big picture was telling. But he made it a point to share his appreciation for the fans.

“The crowd was phenomenal,” Brown said. “I’m so thankful that we’re in an environment where people are so supportive. We want to give more and we have to do a better job to see that happens.”