National Basketball Association
Southern Methodist 60, Cincinnati 51
When: 4:00 PM ET, Sunday, February 12, 2017
Where: Moody Coliseum, Dallas, Texas
# Lee Cassell, # Karl Hess, # Mark Nance
In a high-stakes, nationally-televised Top 25 men's basketball showdown Sunday afternoon, No. 25 Southern Methodist made a mammoth statement with a 60-51 defeat of No. 11 Cincinnati at Moody Coliseum in Dallas.
The Mustangs (22-4, 12-1 American) snapped UC's 15-game winning streak, avenged a Jan. 12 loss to the Bearcats (22-3, 11-1) and vaulted into first place in the conference standings. Freshly-ranked SMU also extended its own winning streak to eight games while doling out UC's first American defeat.
When asked how it feels to be in first place in the American, SMU coach Tim Jankovich said, "Pretty darn good. Pretty darn good. We've been chasing for a long time. Cincinnati's put a lot of pressure on us.
"I was telling somebody today, I don't know how many conference races I've been through and I don't know how many are going on right now where 11, 12 games in one team has no losses and one team has one loss. The pressure every game to keep up for us, and for them I'm sure, it just kind of keeps mounting."
Semi Ojeleye scored 18 points and Sterling Brown added 13 points with a team-high 10 rebounds in the win. Ben Emelogu and Shake Milton added 11 points each.
"It's a make or miss game," Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. "They pack it in so tight and they're so physical, especially in their own gym."
The Bearcats buried seven first-half 3-pointers, but the Mustangs rallied to knot the score at 28 by halftime.
UC asserted itself in a 12-0 run that generated a 40-31 lead early in the second half. But the game's defining sequence came soon after, as SMU roared back with a 15-0 tear that vaulted it ahead 46-40.
"Yeah, we tried to trick them. We tried to let them get way ahead and get a false sense of security," Jankovich quipped. "Not a great time to dig that hole. Obviously, the hole earlier in the game is always doable but the later it goes.
"But our guys don't panic, or I haven't seen them panic. And at every timeout or every time we could talk to them, we just said, 'Hey, we're right there. We've got to shore up the defense a little bit.' We made a couple of adjustments and they were fantastic in executing those. I thought we did a tremendous job of playing hard and tough without fouling which for me was going to be No. 1 thing in the game."
The Mustangs never trailed again. In fact, they outscored UC 29-11 in the last 14:55.
Asked by ESPN commentators what the difference was in the game, Ojeleye pointed to defense.
"Coach (Tim Jankovich) told us if we got stops, then everything else on the offense would take care of itself and that's what happened," Ojeleye said.
As SMU scored 15 straight, UC endured a six-minute scoreless span in which it missed five shots and committed three turnovers. Coach Mick Cronin called a timeout after Brown delivered a lay-up that whipped the arena's record 7,518 fans into a fever pitch.
Although UC's Kyle Washington ended the drought with a jumper after the timeout, it was a mere blip in the Mustangs' plans. They stretched their run to 21-2 and led by 10 with 7:33 remaining.
UC guard Troy Caupain, the preseason conference co-player of the year, went 0-for-7 from the field and scored his only points via two free throws with 2:02 left.
Brown answered with a jumper and the Mustangs held on for the win.
The Bearcats were led by Jacob Evans' 15 points and Gary Clark's 12 rebounds. Kevin Johnson added 13 points and Washington chipped in 10.
SMU outscored Cincinnati 32-23 in the second half and won the rebounding 32-31. The biggest difference in the second half was field goal percentage, as the Mustangs shot 62.5 percent to the Bearcats' 25.9, and that was enough to signal UC's first loss since Dec. 10 at then-No. 16 Butler.
As the Mustangs eye the final regular-season stretch and what lies beyond that, Ojeleye said there are a couple priorities on the to-do list.
"I think take care of our bodies because we don't have a lot of depth and then clean up the mental mistakes," Ojeleye said. "A team like Cincinnati, you miss a close-out, you miss a box-out, they're scoring. We have to clean up those tiny things and hopefully not make those mistakes."
NOTES: With Cincinnati's loss, only three teams in the country remain undefeated in conference play: Gonzaga (West Coast Conference), Princeton (Ivy) and Vermont (America East). ... SMU improved to 15-0 at home and recorded its 19th straight victory at Moody Coliseum. ... The victory was SMU's first over a ranked team since Feb. 23, 2014. ... UC was stopped just shy of its best winning streak in the Mick Cronin era. Its 15-0 streak tied a program-high, which Bearcats teams also achieved in 2010-11 and 2013-14.
Top Game Performances
Jacob Evans 15
Semi Ojeleye 18
Jacob Evans 5
Shake Milton 4
Gary Clark 12
Sterling Brown 10
Troy Caupain 2
||Free Throws Made
Semi Ojeleye 5
Kevin Johnson 2
Sterling Brown 2
Kyle Washington 2
Ben Moore 2
Team Stats Summary