By now you have no doubt heard or read that the No. 6 Cincinnati Bearcats won again on Sunday. However, that’s a bit of an oversimplification since the Bearcats didn’t just get past SMU yesterday, they sprinted past. With a 76-51 win, they once again proved that they are the class of the American Athletic Conference, earning their 16th-straight win and once again bolstering the notion that they are a top 10 and possibly top five team.
Defensive efficiency was once again at the forefront for the Bearcats, who limited the Mustangs to just nine field goals (25.7 percent shooting) in the first 20 minutes. That included an incredible 1-of-13 showing from beyond the arc. SMU found a few more gaps in the second half, but it was nowhere near enough, as it registered an effective field goal percentage of .356 overall, far below the .484 mark recorded by UC.
That second number was buoyed by a huge second half. UC only shot 33.3 percent in the first half, but still cruised into halftime thanks to an 8-of-11 effort at the foul line. In the last 20 minutes, freebies didn’t tell the story. Instead, the Bearcats turned things up offensively, netting 56.7 percent from the field while assisting on 14 of 17 field goals. Justin Jenifer played a major role in the offensive rejuvenation, dishing out five dimes while scoring six points on 2-of-3 shooting in the second frame.
However, Kyle Washington was once again the leader of the offensive push, as he scored 11 of his team-high 17 points in eight second half minutes. Washington has been on a tear recently. In the last seven games he has averaged 13.7 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game while shooting .556/.429/.769.
Turning back to UC’s defensive dominance, it should be noted that SMU committed nine turnovers in the second half, which was more than the Bearcats had for the whole game (seven). In fact, UC forced 14 takeaways and scored 18 points off of those, while the Mustangs had 10 points off turnovers. UC also owned a 38-28 edge in paint scoring.
Clearly the Mustangs struggled to find buckets. If the sentences written above didn’t illustrate that, then perhaps their 75.0 offensive rating will. The problem was there was not enough help given to the few players who did have some success. With Shake Milton sidelined for the third-straight game, the Mustang starters played pretty much the whole game. Only seven SMU contributors got court time, and four different starters played at least 30 minutes. Jimmy Whitt and Jahmal McMurray hoisted up 32 of the team’s 59 field goal attempts and combined for 38 points. The rest of the team went 4-for-21 from the field, with William Douglas’ two points the only ones from a reserve. Meanwhile, the Bearcats got 21 points from the bench, including eight from Keith Williams.
On Sunday, UC also got some good news when the March Madness selection committee named it a No. 2 seed four weeks out from the NCAA Tournament. A lot can happen between now and when the official brackets are let loose, but the Bearcats are on a path toward a big March.
Best Individual Stat Line
Washington is clearly the favorite here, since he scored 17 points on 8-of-12 shooting in 18 minutes, while contributing eight rebounds and two blocks as well. However, don’t let Washington’s brilliance let your overlook solid games from Jarron Cumberland (12 points, four assists, two steals), Gary Clark (11 points, six rebounds, two assists, two steals, two blocks) and Tre Scott (five rebounds, four assists. In fact, Cumberland recorded the highest offensive rating of any Bearcat on Sunday (156) while Clark had the best defensive rating (63).