SMU cruises past #7 Cincinnati 76-55
By Michael_Owen, Sports Writer for Konsume Sports
DALLAS -- The SMU Mustangs shocked the 7th ranked Cincinnati Bearcats and the NCAA basketball world, in front of a sold out Moody Coliseum crowd on Saturday night, 76-55 in a game that turned the balance of the American Athletic Conference, if not the NCAA Men's basketball field. Mustang guard Nick Russell put up 15 points to go with 3 big steals and coach Larry Brown's SMU Mustangs stayed undefeated at home including 7-0 at newly renovated Moody, ending the Bearcats' 15-game winning streak.
In the biggest win for SMU basketball in decades, in a scene not witnessed in recent memory, the fans stormed the court after the final buzzer.
SMU (19-5, 8-3 American Athletic Conference) has now beaten three Top 25 opponents in seven games since moving into the renovated Moody Coliseum on campus five weeks ago, after not beating a ranked opponent since 2003, or multiple ranked opponents since the last time the Mustangs were ranked which was the 84-85 season..
The ranking drought will end this week.
Russell had two steals in less than a minute that led to breakaway baskets, with a 3-pointer from Nic Moore in between, to end an 11-0 run by the Mustangs to pull away after Cincinnati (22-3, 11-1) closed the Ponies lead to 48-41 midway through the second half.
Cincinnati was on a 15 game winning streak that vaulted them past AAC foe Louisville and hadn't lost since dropping consecutive games to New Mexico and Xavier early in December. The streak included a win over SMU 65-57 at home in their AAC opener on New Year's Day.
But this one belonged to the Mustangs the whole way. SMU came into the game 3rd in the nation in defensive FG% and held Cincy to only 17 for 48 (35.4%) shooting, held a 34-18 edge in the paint but the real difference make was the bench. SMU reserves outscored Cincinnati's bench 35-8.
Freshman Ben Moore scored 15 points off the bench for SMU, while Sophmore Nic Moore scored 14 and Junior Center Cannen Cunningham chipped in 11.
AAC scoring leader Sean Kilpatrick led all scorers with 22 points on 5-of-18 shooting, but only hit 3 of 12 (25%) on 3-pointers.
The Bearcats went on a 6-0 run to make it 48-41, the closest they had been since there were 3 minutes left in the first half, when Titus Rubles hit two free throws after being fouled on a breakaway drive after stealing a pass. The Mustangs however pulled away after Russell made a layup when Markus Kennedy broke through two defenders and dished him the ball.
SMU went back up 59-41 with 8:13 left when Russell had a huge steal and broke free for a thunderous, one-handed dunk that reinvigorated the Moody Crazies . Nic Moore hit a 3-pointer right before that, after Ben Moore's breakaway layup that came after another steal by Russell.
The sellout started chanting "Larry! Larry! Larry!" several times before tipoff and kept it up until late in the game. While students at one end serenaded Cincinnati players with "Over-rated," students sitting at the end near Brown and the SMU bench yelled out "Under-rated!"
That won't be the case any more for the Mustangs after another convincing victory over a ranked team.
(images courtesy AP/John F. Rhodes & LM Otero)