Cincinnati (22-3, 11-1 American) fell to SMU (22-4, 12-1 American) 60-51 in front of a packed crowd at Moody Coliseum on Sunday afternoon. The Bearcats played their worst half of basketball of the season, scoring just 23 points in the second half giving SMU their eighth straight victory, and 18th win in their last 19 games.
The game actually started well for the Bearcats who led 19-12 early in the first half thanks to a barrage of three pointers. Cincinnati extended the lead to 23-15 before going cold over the final seven minutes of the half. SMU used that opportunity to go on their own 13-5 run and send the game to halftime tied at 28-28. The Bearcats controlled the flow of the game, and were shooting significantly better than the Mustangs, but somehow SMU managed to keep the game close.
After a Shake Milton three-pointer to open the second half, the Bearcats went on a 12-0 run to give them a 40-31 lead with 15:12 remaining. Both Kevin Johnson and Jacob Evans hit big three point baskets to extend the lead and put Cincinnati in control.
SMU responded with a 21-2 run over the next eight minutes to take a 52-42 lead and the Bearcats just couldn’t claw their way back into the game. It was undoubtedly the worst eight-minute stretch of the season for Cincinnati, and the seven minutes that followed weren’t much better.
Cincinnati shot 32 three pointers in the game, making just 11. They didn’t do much better from inside the arc either, hitting just six of 17 from two-point range. Troy Caupain was the biggest disappointment. The senior shot 0-7 from the field, and scored just two points on a pair of free throws. You’d be hard pressed to find a worse all-around game from him in his career at Cincinnati. Not only did he fail to hit a shot, but he also only secured one rebound and added just three assists.
In a somewhat shocking reversal of fates, the Bearcats bench was even outscored by SMU’s bench. Ben Emelogu was the only bench player used by the Mustangs in the entire game, yet his 11 points were enough to outscore the Bearcats four bench points.
Perhaps Cincinnati can play this badly against Tulsa, Marshall, and East Carolina and still pull out wins, but today proved they’ll have to rise to another level to beat teams as good as SMU.
Next week the Bearcats take a trip to South Florida to face the Bulls, and then get a visit from Tulsa for a rematch of their dramatic 57-55 battle in Tulsa just a couple of weeks ago.