The Cincinnati Bearcats took a large lead in the third quarter before allowing a significantly taller SMU team back into the game. The win, UC’s fourth straight, counted as revenge against a Mustangs team that beat them 64-47 in Dallas two weeks ago. At the same time, UC’s inability to close out a game they led by as much as fifteen points in the third quarter raises concerns about their ability to hold off rallies against stronger competition.
Shanice Johnson led the Bearcats on both ends of the floor, scoring 17 points and grabbing 11 rebounds against a towering SMU front court. Bianca Quisenberry contributed 14 points and 7 rebounds. Nikira Goings had a breakout performance for the Bearcats, posting 13 points. She nailed a trio of third quarter three pointers, which helped UC break out to a 46-31 lead midway through the frame.
Sharpshooting guard McKenzie Adams led the way for SMU with 32 points, keeping the Mustangs in the game with clutch shot after clutch shot in the third and fourth quarters. Adams, who typically averages 10.5 points per game, played with great intensity and focus this evening. Alicia Froling, the Mustangs’ standout 6’3 forward from Queensland, Australia, had a productive game in the low post, scoring 13 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
The Bearcats held a 33-27 lead going into the locker room, relying on their signature high-energy, hustling style of play to stay out in front of the Mustangs. Cincinnati, particularly Ana Owens and Quisenberry, played with great defensive intensity in the first half, hounding SMU’s guards up and down the court. Despite SMU’s size advantage, UC won its fair share of battles on the boards throughout the first twenty minutes. Quisenberry and Shanice Johnson turned into particularly strong rebounding performances in the first half, each garnering five first-half rebounds. For the evening, SMU won the battle on the boards 42-39, but this was a dramatic improvement from the Bearcats’ rebounding performance in the previous meeting, when SMU pulled down 15 more rebounds than Cincinnati.
Additionally, Cincinnati relied on substantial contributions from its bench, which scored 14 points in the first two quarters and 20 total for the game. In particular, Antoinette Miller and Angel Rizor made significant offensive and defensive contributions of the bench. Reserve Freshman forward Rizor’s strong performance on the defensive end, which was punctuated by 5 rebounds, was particularly timely. Starter Chelsea Warren spent much of the second half in foul trouble, having picked up most of her fouls guarding Froling.
UC threatened to break open a larger lead in the first half on several occasions, but SMU’s tough, aggressive guard play caused the Bearcats to force up a number of poor shots early in possessions. SMU coach Travis Mays must be credited with having his Mustangs ready to compete on both ends of the floor this evening at Fifth Third Bank Arena.
Cincinnati built a fifteen point lead in the third quarter, relying on some excellent outside shooting by Quisenberry and Nikira Goings, who hit three three-pointers in the quarter. UC’s success from beyond the arc was a product of the patience they displayed on the offensive end, working the ball around to find open shots. UC hit 8 of the 17 three-points they attempted this evening. Credit Bearcats’ coach Jamelle Elliott for this evident half-time adjustment.
SMU’s late run, which cut the UC lead to one point with two seconds remaining, may have been an aberration. McKenzie Adams poured in 14 of her game-high 32 points in the fourth quarter, almost single-handedly bringing the Mustangs back into the game. Let us hope so.
Cincinnati, who improved their overall record to 13-5 and their conference mark to 4-1, returns to action on Saturday at 2 PM at Fifth Third Bank Arena. They host a rebuilding East Carolina team who has thus far struggled in AAC action.
SMU falls to 10-8 overall and 1-4 in AAC play. They head to Houston on Saturday for a matchup with the 8-9 Cougars.