ORLANDO, Fla. (SMU) – SMU went blow-for-blow with top-seeded Cincinnati for 35 minutes, leading by as much as six in the second half, but the Mustangs ran out of steam down the stretch, falling to the Bearcats, 61-51, on Friday in the AAC Championship quarterfinals.
Junior Jahmal McMurray was once again the catalyst for SMU, scoring a game-high 17 points while grabbing six rebounds, just one off of Ben Emelogu II’s team-high seven boards. Emelogu also joined McMurray in double-figures with 11 points.
While leading by six with 15 minutes to go, senior Akoy Agau had a 3-point attempt rim-out that would have given SMU a nine-point lead and firm hold of the game. Instead, Cincinnati grabbed the rebound and cut the lead to four, ending the Mustangs’ 7-0 run to take the lead. That Cincinnati basket sparked a 10-0 Bearcats run to take back control of the game.
From that point, SMU would cut the lead to as small as one point with six minutes to go, but the Mustangs never found the lead again. Cincinnati’s first lead of more than two possessions didn’t come until the four-minute mark of the second half, but the Bearcats extended the lead out to double-digits over the final minutes.
Cincinnati used a significant size advantage to really hurt the Mustangs on the offensive glass, grabbing 14 offensive rebounds that led to 17 second-chance points. On top of that, the Bearcats made SMU pay for turnovers, scoring 21 points off of turnovers.
The Mustangs hung around No. 8 Cincinnati seemingly by sheer will, as it’s not like an inordinate amount of shots were falling. SMU hit just 5-of-21 shots from 3-point range, but the Mustang defense allowed the Bearcats just two 3-pointers in 14 attempts. SMU showed great effort on defense all game, staying active to net eight steals and force 11 turnovers.