SMU (13-4, 3-2 American Athletic Conference) used a 19-5 run in the second half to slip away from UCF (9-7, 1-4). It was the Mustangs third win in their last four games.
That burst helped SMU overcome a forgettable first half when they shot just 32 percent (8 of 25) and turned the ball over 10 times. SMU shot 56 percent in the second half and limited themselves to six giveaways.
"I like the progress we're making," SMU coach Larry Brown said. "We defended pretty well, which is surprising because we turned the ball over too much, but we did a good job of taking care of things in that second half."
Nic Moore added 11 points for the Mustangs to compliment Kennedy's performance.
Tristan Spurlock was the only UCF player to reach double figures, scoring 11 points. The Knights, who lost their third straight game, got nine points from Daiquan Walker. They played nearly all the second half without their best player, Isaiah Sykes, who suffered a head injury after a collision under the basket with 18:22 left in the game.
UCF had more turnovers (19) than field goals (15) in the game and shot just 31.3 percent (15 of 48) for the game.
"Isaiah is as good a player as there is in the conference so when UCF lost him, I think you could see that it really affected their team," Brown said.
"It did," UCF coach Donnie Jones said.
Neither team led by more than four points until SMU took advantage of three straight UCF turnovers to score six unanswered points and take a 41-34 lead with 10 minutes left in the game. After a free throw by UCF's Staphon Blair, Kennedy made a layup, Moore hit a 3-pointer and Kennedy ended the next possession with a thunderous dunk as the Mustangs started pulling away.
UCF didn't score a field goal for more than 10 minutes, getting its only points on free throws from Blair, Spurlock and Kasey Wilson. The Knights went 0 of 10 during that stretch and committed five turnovers. By the time Steven Haney ended the drought with a 3-pointer, there was just 1:44 left in the game and UCF was down 54-42.
"If we had played the first half like we played the second half, this game never would have been close," Kennedy said. "We take too long to get warmed up, especially when we're on the road. But we kept fighting and once we started executing our offense, things were going pretty good."