Pony’s season ends with loss to Cincinnati

by Dan M | Posted on Saturday, March 16th, 2019


BY:  Dic Humphrey                                                                                                                                                                              MEMBER:  United States Basketball Writers Association

The SMU Mustangs’ basketball season came to an end Friday night in Memphis’s Fed-Ex Forum as they lost to the Cincinnati Bearcats, 82-74.  Cincinnati, which is ranked 24th and 23rd this week in the two major polls, advances to the semi-finals of the Air Force Reserve AAC Classic, the Men’s basketball post-season tournament of the American Athletic Conference.  The Bearcats will play Wichita State Saturday after the Wheat Shockers upset three seed Temple, 80-74.  SMU goes home with a 15-17 record for the year.

The Mustangs got off to a great start.  Jahmal McMurray hit the first basket (a three point shot).  Cincinnati answered with five points to take a 5-3 lead.  SMU promptly took the lead back and controlled the game for most of the half.  They held the lead for 14:40 overall in the first 20 minutes.

The Ponies stretched the lead to as many as eight points at 29-21 with 7-1/2 minutes left in the period.  From there, the Mustangs gave up points on some sloppy turnovers that allowed the Bearcats to outscore SMU 19-9 to finish the half and take a 40-38 halftime lead.  Cincinnati’s Justin Jenifer hit a three point basket with two seconds remaining to give the Bearcats that lead.  

The last second shot Cincinnati made to end the first half seemed to take the air out of SMU’s balloon.  Cincinnati quickly extended the lead to nine points at 52-43 in the first 4:06 of the second half.  The Mustangs could have folded at that point, but they didn’t.  They fought back to cut the Cincinnati lead to a single point at the 11:42 mark.  They later tied the game at 62, 64 and 66, but never could re-take the lead.  Cincinnati ruled the final five minutes outscoring SMU 16-8 for the win.

Head Coach Tim Jankovich again played it close to the vest as essentially six players accounted for most of the playing time.  Four starters played more than 30 minutes, including Jimmy Whitt, Jr. who played all 40 minutes.  Foster played 29, and Feron Hunt played 19.  That left just five minutes for Nat Dixon and William Douglas.

The Mustangs shot 50.8% from the floor, the third straight game to better the 50% mark.  SMU Head Coach Tim Jankovich said before the game was asked about the key to the game, and he didn’t hesitate to respond, “Rebounding, without a doubt.  Lately, we haven’t rebounded well.  To win tonight, we need to do it well.”  Unfortunately, Cincinnati out-rebounded the Mustangs 36-28.  The rebound totals included a 16-10 margin for Cincinnati in offensive rebounds, which led to 17-11 differential in second chance points. 

It was the final college game for four SMU seniors.  McMurray is petitioning the NCAA for an additional year of eligibility, so could be back.  SMU Head Coach Tim Jankovich appreciated the great scorer McMurray has been, leading the team this year in points per game.  He noted though, “As the season went along, he got better (in other aspects of his game).  I’ll miss him.”

It was also the last game for Jarrey Foster, the last player in the program that was recruited by Larry Brown.  It was a rugged year for Foster, as he wasn’t able to play earlier in the season after undergoing surgery for a torn ACL that ended his 2018 season in January.  He re-injured the knee after playing 11 games, and just came back for the final five games of the year.  

Foster admitted he wasn’t close to being 100% physically when he came back.  “If I was 60%, I was going to give 100% of that 60%.”  He admitted there was some sadness to the end of his SMU career.  “Once that final buzzer went off., there were a whole bunch of emotions.”   Foster played 29 minutes, scoring five points, grabbing two rebounds and dishing out one assist.  

For sure though, the team was far better when he played.  He appeared in 16 games, and the Mustangs won 10 of them.  Foster finished his SMU career with a record of 77-22 in games that he participated.  That includes a 51-5 record at Moody Coliseum.

For Cincinnati, Jarron Cumberland, who was named Conference Player of the Year earlier this week, had a huge second half to finish with 27 points.  Justin Jenifer and Tre Scott each put 17 on the board, and Scott completed a double-double with 12 rebounds.  Cumberland also recorded a game high eight assists.

As for the tournament, the top four teams received a first round bye.  The other eight teams played first round games.  Only two of the top four teams won in the second round to advance to the semifinals – two seed Cincinnati and one seed Houston.  Houston had little trouble dispensing Connecticut, winning by 39 points 84-45.  Three seed Temple and four seed Central Florida weren’t so fortunate.  Temple lost to Wichita State and Memphis took care of Central Florida, 79-55.  Memphis will face the Cougars Saturday afternoon, followed by Cincinnati and Wichita State.  Those games will be televised on ESPN2 beginning at 3:00 PM (Central).


  • Jahmal McMurray finished the night by making four three pointers for a total of 101 on the season, the new SMU single season record.  He also finished the season with 580 points, which is ninth all-time at SMU. 
  • SMU has played Cincinnati more than any team in the conference over the past six years since becoming a member of the AAC.  They have played 15 times, including meeting in the conference post-season tournament in each of the past three years.  The Bearcats lead the all-time series 13-5.

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