Justin Haynes added 12 points for the Mustangs (4-3), who have won four of their last five games.
There were 13 ties and 13 lead changes in the game, including three of each in the final 5 minutes. Dia hit two free throws with 2:07 to play to give SMU a 71-70 lead and the Mustangs led the rest of the way.
SMU, which shot 54 percent, led by as many as seven in the first half and went into halftime up 37-32.
Central Arkansas shot 48.3 percent.