HOW ABOUT THEM PONIES!
BY: Dic Humphrey
SMU won the American Athletic Conference post-season tournament Sunday afternoon with a relatively easy 71-56 win over number 15 Cincinnati. It was the third meeting between the two this season, with each team winning at home during the regular season. This time with the conference automatic bid on the line, SMU took charge. The Mustangs literally led the game from wire to wire. It was the 16th win in a row for the Mustangs and the school record 30th win of the season.
The Mustangs are the only team in the brief history of the AAC that has won the regular season championship and the post-season championship in the same year, and they have done it twice.
Seniors Ben Moore and Sterling Brown made the all-tournament team. Semi Ojeleye was named the tournament MVP.
“It’s a great feeling,” Shake Milton said after the game. “It’s a great record, and I really feel good about it. Our seniors did a really good job. It’s a real brotherhood. It makes the mood really light. I’m excited for the whole experience. “
“In my coaching life, I’ve been with a lot of great teams and great players,” Head Coach Tim Jankovich said. “But this is the most special group. I loved our defense. The guys were really focused. Wow! Did we play today!”
“I have been through a lot of seasons in my life,” Jankovich continued. “This is one of the most unique. We are just a bounce away from not having lost since November. I’d like to think this is one of the beloved teams in the history of our school.”
SMU took a nine point lead to the halftime locker room. SMU played well enough defensively to have an even larger lead. They held Cincinnati to 24% from the floor. The Bearcats hit just one of 12 from beyond the three point arc. The Mustangs hit four from long range including a buzzer beater from Ben Emelogu to secure the 32-23 lead. It was the fewest points Cincinnati has scored in a half this season.
The Mustangs came out strong to start the second half, running the lead back into double digits at 40-27 in the first 4-1/2 minutes. Cincinnati made a couple of runs, but never got closer than seven points. The Mustangs ran the lead to as many as 17 points. When they got their score into the 60’s with four minutes remaining, it was clear that it was a matter of running out the clock.
Sterling Brown led the Mustangs with 18 points. He was one of four Ponies to score in double digits. Semi Ojeleye (14), Jarrey Foster (13) and Ben Moore (12) were the other three. Moore and Ojeleye grabbed nine rebounds each to lead the Ponies.
Jason Cumberland came off the Cincinnati bench to score 14 points to lead the Bearcats. Starters Kyle Washington (12), Gary Clark (10), and Jacob Evans, III (10) also scored in double digits. Clark pulled down nine rebounds to lead Cincinnati.
After the game, the Mustangs assembled in a room at the XL Center to watch the NCAA Tournament selection show, where they learned they will be playing next Friday in Tulsa as the six seed in the East region. Cincinnati is the only other team in the AAC to receive an NCAA bid. They are a six seed in the South Region.
- This was the third time the Ponies have won a post-season conference tournament. They won the AAC two years ago and won the Southwest Conference tournament in the 1987-88 season.
- The Mustangs current 16 game winning streak is the third longest in SMU history, and the third longest current streak in the NCAA.
- SMU outshot the Bearcats from the floor 50.0% – 31.1%.