No. 22 Cincinnati holds off SMU
No. 22 Cincinnati holds off SMU
- No. 22 Cincinnati holds off SMU
Published On: Fri, Jan 13
Feb 25, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats guard Troy Caupain (10) against the UCF Knights at Fifth Third Arena. The Bearcats won 83-60. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
CINCINNATI -- The Thursday night game between No. 22 Cincinnati and SMU came down to the final possession. In the end, the Bearcats won because they were the more efficient team over 40 minutes.
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Gary Clark scored 12 of his 18 points in the second half, and Troy Caupain added 16 points as Cincinnati held off the Mustangs 66-64 at Fifth Third Arena.
Kyle Washington added 11 points for Cincinnati, which remained unbeaten in American Athletic Conference play while recording its seventh straight win overall.
The Bearcats (14-2, 4-0 AAC) were red-hot from 3-point range in the first half, and they finished the night with only four turnovers while registering 19 assists.
"We knew we can't win this game turning the ball over," Caupain said. "Teams like to get us out in transition. (Turnovers) would give them easy transition points."
Sterling Brown scored 20 points and Shake Milton added 13 for SMU, which saw its 10-game winning streak end. The Mustangs (14-4, 4-1) hadn't lost since Nov. 30.
SMU trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half but rallied within two points with 42 seconds left.
Brown missed a potential go-ahead 3-pointer with 10 seconds remaining, and Ben Moore missed a point-blank layup that would have tied the score a few seconds later.
Moore finished with 11 points.
"I thought we had a very tough situation, which we handled incredibly well," SMU coach Tim Jankovich said. "We never panicked. I kept telling them during timeouts, 'We're going to get back, we're going to be winning this game.' They never flinched at all. I thought we competed incredibly in the second half."
During its winning streak, SMU held opponents to an average of 54.8 points per game and 37.1 percent shooting. On Thursday night, however, the Bearcats went 7 of 14 from 3-point range in the first half before finishing 12 of 26 beyond the arc.
Cincinnati began the game 4 of 6 from long range with Kevin Johnson hitting his first three 3-point attempts.
Caupain drained a wide open 3-pointer during an 8-0 run, giving the Bearcats a 19-12 lead. He and Johnson each scored nine points in the first half.
Cincinnati extended the run to 16-0 over five minutes to build a 12-point advantage. At that point, the Bearcats were 6 of 10 from 3-point range.
"They hit guarded shots," Jankovich said. "They just shot great. We did a terrific job of guarding the post. That was a concern. A lot of penetration by both teams this game, a lot of stuff at the basket. It was a very hard-fought game."
The Bearcats cooled off late in the first half, and although SMU shot 32 percent and went nearly nine minutes without scoring, the Mustangs trailed by only seven points at halftime. Brown led them with 13 points in the half.
"We were too finesse at times," Bearcats coach Mick Cronin said. "When we had it going on offense, we stopped playing defense. I knew it was going to be a dogfight in the second half."
Despite not having a player taller than 6-foot-8, SMU began the day with the largest rebounding margin in the AAC. On Thursday, the Mustangs outrebounded a Bearcats team known for its tenacity on the boards, 37-27.
"They hold their blocks and get their bigger guards (involved)," Clark said. "They keep coming."
Consecutive dunks by Clark put the Bearcats ahead 53-43 with 12 minutes left. Clark scored 12 points in the first eight minutes of the second half.
However, SMU clawed its way back into the game.
Jarrey Foster's 3-pointer made it a 54-52 game with 8:44 left.
Caupain's 3-pointer sparked a five-point burst by Cincinnati to swing the momentum back in its favor.
"We talked about getting stops, just getting stops," Caupain said. "They're a great team. We weren't going to blow them out. We couldn't lose focus. We had to play all 40 minutes."
Semi Ojeleye, SMU's leading scorer, was quiet for most of the night, but he scored seven straight points, including a 3-pointer and a dunk, bringing the Mustangs back to within two points again. He finished with 12 points.
SMU got within two points on three occasions in the closing seconds but never got closer.
"Give SMU credit, they could've splintered down 15," Cronin said. "Our game plan against them next time has to be better."
NOTES: Cincinnati won its 18th consecutive home game dating to last season. It is the second-longest home winning streak under coach Mick Cronin. ... SMU has not won at Cincinnati since joining the American Athletic Conference. ... Bearcats junior F Kyle Washington was named to the AAC weekly honor roll after posting a team-high 19 points with nine rebounds and two blocks in a win at Houston on Saturday. ... SMU's 10-game winning streak was tied for third longest in school history. It was the Mustangs' longest streak since 1997.
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