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Bearcats Win Opening AAC Contest Against SMU 65-57

Justin Jackson leads the Bearcats to their first American Athletic Conference win ever against the Mustangs of SMU.

Rob Leifheit-USA TODAY Sports

As is customary for any Cincinnati game, this was a grind. But the Bearcats did put SMU under wraps in the second half behind suffocating defense and the play of the new and improved Justin Jackson. The senior who is finally realizing the vastness of his talent once again led the Bearcats in both scoring and rebounding, More than that JJ had five blocks, five steals, a pair of assists and no turnovers. Earlier in the week Jackson was named AAC player of the week, if he replicates this performance against Memphis on Saturday he could make it three in a row.

The play of Jackson was so crucial because Sean Kilpatrick had an off night. Truthfully SK has been off for a minute, but he has been able to mask that by getting to the line. Against Nebraska he shot a hillarious 18 free throws, made 8 of them and wound up with 21 points despite shooting 2 for 13 from the field. SMU kept him off the line, only 6 free throw attempts, and limited his impact. That was offset in large part by the play of Jackson, but Shaq Thomas and Jermaine Sanders both hit double figures today and the Bearcats were able to pull away late against the Mustangs.

Check back with Down The Drive later for Jeff Gentil's more in depth look at today's contest.