HARTFORD, Conn. -- Eight weeks after surgery to repair the broken middle finger on his right hand, Connecticut junior center Amida Brimah decided it was time to play without the protective tape. Chances are the tape is gone for the rest of this season.

Brimah scored 16 points, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked five shots in one of the most dominating performances of his career to lead Connecticut to a 68-62 upset of No. 21 Southern Methodist on Thursday night at XL Center.

"It's hard for me to catch the ball with the tape on," Brimah said after the game. "We had shoot-around today and I decided not to wear it. It definitely made a big difference. I was catching the ball and playing with more confidence without the tape."

This was Brimah's sixth game back in the lineup after missing 11 games with a groin injury and the broken finger. He played a season-high 33 minutes, was not called for a personal foul in the first half and finished with only two.

"It should have been 12 blocks because they were throwing it (darn)-near over the backboard when he was in there," UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. "I just thought everybody stepped up. Our defensive effort was great. We just started buckling down."

Brimah scored nine of his points in the second half, including a dunk that completed a deciding 8-0 run to give the Huskies a 62-52 lead. Sophomore swingman Daniel Hamilton scored 14 points, including both ends of a one-and-one from the line with 17.2 seconds remaining as UConn (19-7, 9-4) defeated SMU for only the second time ever and pulled into a tie with the Mustangs (21-4, 9-4) in the AAC standings.

Senior guard Nic Moore led SMU with 14 points but was 6-for-14 from the field. His floater with 47.4 seconds left in the first half allowed SMU to the game 31-31 at halftime. His jump shot with 1:13 left in the game accounted for the final points for the Mustangs, who are 3-4 since winning their first 18 games of the season.

SMU entered the game ranked fifth nationally in field goal percentage (50.1). UConn's defense held the Mustangs to 43.1 percent. Coach Larry Brown said there was no doubt Brimah was on the minds of his players.

"He impacted the game on both ends," Brown said. "He was phenomenal."

UConn jumped ahead by five early in the second half on a 3-pointer from the left corner by Omar Calhoun (7 points) and two free-throws by Daniel Hamilton (14 points, six rebounds). SMU responded with a three from Moore and a basket by Jordan Tolbert (nine points) that knotted the score again at 38-38.

The two teams exchanged punches for the next eight minutes or so until UConn put together its 8-0 run. When Hamilton buried another 3-pointer with 3:51 left, the Huskies had a 64-55 lead.

"He's definitely back now," freshman point guard Jalen Adams (nine points) said of Brimah. "He played great. He was catching every alley-oop, blocking every shot and rebounding. There was nothing he didn't do. He brought energy to the team."

UConn held the biggest lead of the first half when Calhoun banked in his second made shot of the game to put the Huskies ahead 21-14 with 8:10 left before halftime.

The Mustangs didn't trail for long. Sterling Brown (11 points) hit a pair of 3-pointers to close within one point and after a UConn miss, Ben Moore (13 points, 12 rebounds) scored on a fast break to give SMU a 22-21 lead with 6:30 remaining.

But the Huskies, who have had trouble holding on to leads lately, showed their poise this time.

"We're keeping our composure," Hamilton said. "We learned from that Temple loss (blowing a 12-point lead) and it showed tonight."

NOTES: UConn's bench outscored SMU's reserves 14-4. UConn held an advantage in points in the paint (26-20) and second chance points (12-5). ... The Hartford Courant reported Thursday that the AAC men's championship tournament could be returning to Hartford's XL Center in 2017. The building hosted the AAC event in 2015. Orlando won the bid to host the tournament in 2016 and 2017 but the Orlando Sentinel reported that scheduling conflicts would prevent a return to Orlando in 2017. UCF got the AAC bid before Orlando landed first and second round games in the 2017 NCAA tournament. ... SMU senior PG Nic Moore, averaging 16.7 points with 119 assists, is a favorite to repeat as AAC Player of the Year. He's also a Bob Cousy Award finalist, a Lowe's Senior CLASS finalist, on the Wooden Award midseason Top 25, the Naismith Trophy watch list and the Oscar Robinson Trophy watch list.