Cincinnati 61, SMU 54
Updated 2:50 p.m.: Temple defeated Tulane, 64-56, to claim the regular season American Athletic Conference title
First half: The other side of Senior Day – Cincy 34, SMU 27
The Mustangs were fueled by the passion and energy of their home crowd in their resounding win over Connecticut just a few days ago.
Today, they got to feel the other side of that while visiting the Fifth Third Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio.
SMU’s offense struggled with the Bearcats’ defensive pressure just as they did at times during the first meeting between these two back in Dallas earlier this year.
The Mustangs turned the ball over eight times in the first half (compared to Cincy’s one), and were stymied by their defense over various stretches of the half.
Luckily, Cincinnati’s shooting was atrocious. They shot 27 percent from the floor in the first half (1-13 3pt FGs), which kept SMU very much alive in the ballgame.
One of the most questionable decisions came with Markus Kennedy on the floor near the end of the half.
He had just picked up his second foul with about a minute and a half remaining, subbed out, and was subsequently subbed back in to pick up his third personal foul during the first half’s final seconds.
Second half: Bearcats defense stands just tall enough
With 8:46 remaining in the second half, Markus Kennedy’s career at SMU came to an end as he missed a lay-up, went for a tie-up on the rebound, and was called for his fifth and final personal foul.
Thirty seconds later, Cincinnati converted two free throws to push the lead over double-digits for the game’s final stretch.
All would have been lost at that point if it hadn’t been for SMU’s stellar defensive showing in the season’s final game.
Over the next seven minutes, SMU only allowed the Bearcats to score four points, and with 1:55 remaining, Shake Milton made a reverse lay-up to cut the lead to three at 55-52.
That’s as close as SMU would get.
On their next offensive possession, a controversially overturned call via replay ruled a ball out of bounds off of Ben Moore – SMU’s 16th of 17 turnovers – effectively ending any hopes of an SMU comeback in the final moments.
First star: Nic Moore – 14 points, 5 assists, played all 40 minutes
Second star: Ben Moore – 12 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks
Third star: Jordan Tolbert – 9 points, 13 rebounds