Mustangs battle hard in loss to Bearcats

by Dan M | Posted on Sunday, February 3rd, 2019

SMU_Cincinnati_Basketball_35276

BY:  Dic Humphrey                                                                                                                                                                 MEMBER: United States Basketball Writers’ Association

The SMU Mustangs played a fabulous game against Cincinnati Saturday night in the Bearcats’ Fifth Third Arena; but in the end, the heavily favored Bearcats held on for a 73-68 win over the struggling Mustangs.  Cincinnati won their seventh consecutive game to move their record to 19-3 for the season and 8-1 in American Athletic Conference play.  The Mustangs dropped their second straight game and fourth out of the last five, making their record 12-9 overall and 4-5 in conference play.

It was an even game over the first eight minutes.  SMU actually led by four (15-11) at the 12:54 mark, their largest lead of the game.  Cincinnati seemingly took over the game from that point building a 12 point lead with 3:21 left until halftime.  The Mustangs however, followed with a seven point run to cut the Bearcat’s lead to five, before Cincinnati scored a late basket to go into the half time locker room leading by seven points at 42-35. 

Over the first three plus minutes of the second half, Cincinnati looked to be pulling away, twice moving the lead into double digits.  However, over the next two plus minutes SMU rallied to cut the lead to one point at 51-50.  It was close the rest of the way.  SMU never led, but twice tied the game.  Late in the game, SMU cut the lead to one point again with 2:50 remaining, and cut it to two points at 70-68 with 33 seconds left.  However, the Mustangs missed their final two shots, while the Bearcats made three free throws to cap the win.   

“I couldn’t be happier with the effort,” SMU Head Coach Tim Jankovich said on the post-game radio show on KAAM 770 AM.  “So many good things in this game.  I’m really proud of the team.”

SMU again played with eight scholarship players, just as they had earlier this week in Wichita, as freshman Jahmar Young did not make the trip suffering from the flu.  Only seven players saw action in the game, just like the Wichita game.  Jankovich changed his starting lineup giving freshman Feron Hunt his first college start and bringing Nat Dixon off the bench.  It was just the third starting lineup for the Mustangs this year.

Jahmal McMurray was the Mustangs’ leading scorer with 21 points.  Isiah Mike (17 points), Jimmy Whitt, Jr. (12) and Hunt (11) were the other double digit scorers for SMU.  It was Hunt’s fifth game in double digit scoring game this season.

For Cincinnati, Jarron Cumberland led their offensive attack with 24 points.  He showed why he’s a solid candidate for Player of the Year in the conference as he was also the leading rebounder in the game with nine to just miss recording a double-double.  Three other Bearcats joined Cumberland as double digit scorers.  Cincinnati out-rebounded SMU 35-32.

Ten players saw action for Cincinnati and the depth showed.  Cumberland was the only Bearcat to play at least 30 minutes, while all five SMU starters saw more than 30 minutes of playing time.  Cincinnati’s bench players tallied 20 points, while Nat Dixon made a free throw for the Mustangs’ only bench point.  

The real difference in the game though came at the free throw line.  Both teams made 26 baskets.  Ten of the 26 baskets were three point shots for both teams.  Cincinnati made 11 free throws, while SMU made six for the five point difference in the final score.  Amazingly with Cincinnati’s rough style of play, the Bearcats were charged with just 10 fouls in the game, and SMU was not in the one-and-one in either half.

The Mustangs return home for games with the two Florida teams next week – South Florida on Thursday and Central Florida on Sunday.  The South Florida game starts at 8:00 PM Central.  It will be televised on either ESPN2 or ESPNU.

NOTABLE:

  • SMU is 5-11 all-time against the Bearcats.  That includes 0-8 at Cincinnati, the only visiting court at which the Mustangs have not recorded a win among the other 11 American Athletic Conference teams.
  • Saturday’s announced attendance was 12,256, the largest crowd for any SMU game this season. 
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