Written by Adrian Beecher
ORLANDO, Fla. – Top-seeded Cincinnati got all they bargained for against ninth-seeded SMU. The game included nine lead changes and wasn’t settled until the final minutes of the game with the Bearcats advancing with a 61-51 win over SMU.
SMU started the game with a defensive stop and struck the iron first as Ben Emelogu II drained a triple. Excitement though would quickly turn to a scramble to slow things down as the Bearcats opened up an 8-0 run.
Emelogu II would put an end to the run, as he put in a jumper. Three minutes later the Mustangs would get on a 7-0 run to regain the lead at 16-14 on a triple from William Douglas with 12:03 left in half.
After trading baskets and exchanging lead, Cincinnati had extended their lead to the largest of the first half at 6, with only 5:25 left in half. They would be unable to pull away, however, as SMU battled back and cut the deficit to just 1 point as the teams went into the locker room at the half.
Scoring leader at the half for Cincinnati was Kyle Washington with nine points. For the Mustangs, it was Emelogu II leading the way with nine as well.
The Mustangs continued their pressure and would strike first in the second half as well, this time Jahmal McMurray put in a layup to give SMU the 29-28 lead. In fact, they would score the first two basket’s of the second half before Cincy got things going with back to back buckets of their own to regain the lead at 32-31.
On the ensuing possession for SMU, Akoy Agau hit a triple to give the Stangs a 34-32 lead. The would extend that lead to 6 points before Washington hit a bucket for Cincinnati.
As the battle heated up, every bucket started to matter more. The Bearcats would once again put together an 8-0 run as the Mustangs struggled from the field. With 11:23 left to play, Cincinnati lead 42-38.
The run was halted on a jumper from McMurray, then SMU goes a defensive stop and a basket to tie things up. However, the basket was called off due to a travel violation from Agau.
The Bearcats would push their lead to four, taking advantage of the mistake. As we reached the under eight-minute timeout, the Bearcats had the 46-42 advantage on SMU.
Out of the media timeout, the Mustangs pulled within one as McMurray hit a triple. However, then a bucket and a triple from Cincy would put the Bearcats lead up to six. The Mustangs continued to battle, but Cincy just kept slipping further and further away. first to 7 and then to 10 with just under four minutes to play as Gary Clark hit a three.
As frustration started to build for SMU, their head coach Tim Jankovich was called for a technical foul for chirping in the referee’s ear a little too much. Justin Jenifer hit the free throws for Cincinnati to make it a 12 point game with 2:48 left to play.
That would all but ice this one over as the Mustangs scored just four points in the final 2:40 of the game. The Bearcats advance to the semifinals on Saturday with a matchup against the winner of the Tulsa vs Memphis quarterfinal.