HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) - Mo Cassara wasn't allowed to speak directly about the four Hofstra players who had been arrested Friday on burglary charges because of the ongoing investigation.
That didn't mean the coach couldn't talk.
"Nobody feels worse, nobody has slept less, nobody has felt more devastated than me," the third-year coach said. "It's been a difficult couple of days and there is nobody who feels worse about it than me. Disappointed. Almost heartbroken in many ways."
And there wasn't any relief coming from playing a basketball game.
Nick Russell had 20 points, five rebounds and seven assists Saturday to lead SMU to a 73-47 victory over Hofstra.
Jalen Jones had 14 points and 12 rebounds for SMU, while Cannen Cunningham had 10 points and nine rebounds and Shawn Williams had 10 points and 10 rebounds. The Mustangs finished with a 49-37 advantage on the boards.
SMU is coached by Hall of Famer Larry Brown, who had a few words for Cassara.
"He gave me a couple of real positive words: Keep working," Cassara related from Brown. "He said he was sorry for what we're going through. He was wonderful."
Brown said you hate to see kids go through something like this.
"We all have made a lot of mistakes and you don't realize the impact of yourself and those around you. You can't lose four quality players in one day and expect to have success. ... Hopefully this can be resolved and they can get on with their lives."
Stevie Mejia had 11 points for Hofstra, which was missing two starters and two top reserves after the four players were suspended from all university activities while the case is pending.
The four Hofstra players were arrested on burglary charges stemming from dormitory room break-ins. Police said the players were charged in six burglaries that occurred between Oct. 4 and Nov. 5. The arrested players were sophomore Shaquille Stokes and freshmen Kentrell Washington, Jimmy Hall and Dallas Anglin. Each pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Friday.
Stokes was charged with five counts of second-degree burglary. Washington was charged with two counts of second-degree burglary. Hall was charged with four counts of second-degree burglary. Anglin was charged with one count of second-degree burglary and one count of tampering with physical evidence.
Hall was second on the team in scoring (12.7) and led the Pride in rebounding (9.4). Stokes, also a starter, averaged 10.0 points, while reserves Anglin and Washington averaged 3.2 and 2.4 points, respectively.
Cassara was asked if he felt that being a scholarship athlete meant avoiding problems like this.
"That's part of their job. That's part of what they're required to do," he said. "We talk to the kids all the time about it. About doing it the right way."
The Mustangs (8-1) scored the first 10 points of the game and led by as many as 19 points on two occasions. SMU led 31-19 at halftime as Hofstra (3-5) shot 21.9 percent (7 of 32), including 2 of 11 from 3-point range. The Mustangs shot 38.2 percent (13 of 34) in the half.
Hofstra's poor shooting continued and the Mustangs took advantage to go ahead by as many as 27 points with about 12 minutes left and they cruised from there. The Pride finished at 25.9 percent from the field (15 of 58) and made 5 of 18 from 3-point range.
SMU shot 47.5 percent for the game (29 of 61), going 16 of 26 in the second half (59.3 percent).
The loss was Hofstra's third straight after a three-game winning streak.
Brown, who was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002, brought the Mustangs back to the area where he was a standout athlete at Long Beach H.S. before going on to North Carolina and then a career in the ABA. He has coached a record nine NBA teams and his other college stops were iconic programs UCLA and Kansas.
"It's always great coming back and seeing old friends," Brown said before yelling, "How `bout those Knicks!"
In the back of the news conference room waiting for Brown were Knicks head coach Mike Woodson and other members of his staff and some team officials.
"I tried to run some of his stuff tonight but I don't know if we did it right," Brown said of Woodson.
"That's your stuff," Woodson yelled back. "We all run your stuff."
This was SMU's first game in New York State since 1950. The Mustangs broke a four-game losing streak in New York and are 4-6 in the Empire State all-time.