The Ponies last day falls short

by Dan M | Posted on Friday, March 9th, 2018

920x920

BY: Dic Humphrey                                                                                                                      Member USBWA

Friday proved to be the last day for Tim Jankovich’s merry band of seven scholarship players. They played a strong game and threw a big scare into the number eight team in the nation; but in the end, Cincinnati’s superior height, depth and defensive prowess proved too much for the Mustangs to overcome. Cincinnati won 61-51 to advance to the semifinals of the American Athletic Conference post-season tournament. SMU goes home with a 17-16 record.

The Mustangs played a strong first half. They led much of the way, and trailed by one at intermission, 28-27. Cincinnati did not hit a three point shot in the period and stayed competitive on the strength on eight offensive rebounds that led to nine second chance points.

SMU started strong in the second half. A 7-0 run put them in front by six points at 38-32. At that point, it was the largest lead of the day for either team. Cincinnati then took control of the game with a 10-0 run. SMU never led again, though they closed to within one point at 6:45 (46-45).

Gary Clark, the conference Player of the Year, recorded a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Kyle Washington led the Bearcats in scoring with 15 points, while Cane Broome came off the bench to add 13 more.

SMU stayed in the game with eight steals to just two for Cincinnati and by making five three point shots to Cincinnati’s two. Friendly whistles helped Cincinnati greatly. SMU shot just two free throws in the game, while the Bearcats were 11-19 from the charity stripe.   Foul trouble plagued the Ponies throughout the game. Emelogu finished with four fouls, and Jimmy Whitt, Ethan Chargois and Elijah Landrum were each charged with three.

Jahmal McMurray and Ben Emelogu were the Mustangs’ only double digit scorers. McMurray led with 17 points, while Emelogu finished his SMU career with 11 points. Emelogu also led the Mustangs with seven rebounds.

SMU now looks to next year. It has been assumed since the season began that this would be Shake Milton’s final year on the Hilltop. However, he told SMU radio voice Allen Stone on Thursday that he had not decided. The odds are that he will opt for the NBA, but there is a chance he returns, which would be a huge boost for next year’s team. Akoy Agau has petitioned the NCAA for an additional year of eligibility and there is optimism that he’ll get it. However, he played through a lot of knee pain this season and very likely will choose not to play next year even if the NCAA grants his request.

SMU has signed two freshmen – Feron Hunt and Jahmar Young. Isaiah Mike transferred from Duquesne and sat out this season per the transfer rules. He is 6’-9”, so provides help in an area the Mustangs lack – height. However, he has been quoted as saying that he regrets transferring and wishes that he had stayed at Duquesne.   There are rumors of one or perhaps two current Mustangs transferring out, and Jankovich’s staff is searching for fifth year seniors that could provide immediate help next season. The bottom line at this point though, is that Emelogu, Milton and Agau are likely gone, and Mike and the two freshmen are the replacements.

NOTABLE:

  • The loss snapped a seven game SMU winning streak in American Athletic Conference post-season tournament play.   The Mustangs had won the tournament in 2015 and 2017, winning three games each time to go along with Thursday’s win over Connecticut. SMU did not participate in the 2016 tournament.
  • SMU is 5-10 all-time against Cincinnati and 1-1 against the Bearcats in post-season conference tournament play.
Tags

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these html tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>