Tulane win, scoring 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting. The senior had a knack for being around the ball and was there for several tip-ins. Cunningham sometimes can disappear in games when Yanick Moreira and Markus Kennedy play well, but he played with great energy and passion. When he does that, he’s a great weapon for SMU off the bench.
SMU was all over Cincinnati’s passing in the first half. SMU forced 10 turnovers in the first 10 minutes. While Cincinnati’s passing was extremely poor, an SMU defender was usually in the right place to pick off a pass or pick up a loose ball. The Mustangs finished with nine steals.
2. FORCING TURNOVERS
SMU had five offensive rebounds in the final five minutes and limited Cincinnati to four total rebounds in that time. Sterling Brown grabbed a defensive rebound, then grabbed his own miss and put it back to lower the Cincy lead to three, which gave the team a lift. However, Shaq Thomas hit a cold-blooded three with 1:39 to go that felt like a dagger. Still, the Mustangs hit the glass hard when it mattered, and that kept them in the game until the end.
3. CRUNCH TIME REBOUNDING
1. FINISHING AT THE RIMCincinnati came into the game allowing only 41.3 percent shooting on 2-pointers, but SMU could not finish at the rim and looked tentative when going up to the rim. The Mustangs missed 14 shots around the rim in the game, and many of the makes came on second chances, courtesy of 13 offensive rebounds.
SMU had tons of transition opportunities thanks to all of Cincinnati’s turnovers, but couldn’t capitalize and let the Bearcats settle back into the half-court defense. Advantage: Cincinnati. Defensively, one of the keys in transition is stopping the ball, and SMU failed to do that several times in the second half, which lead to a couple momentum-swinging Cincinnati layups that helped the Bearcats shoot 53.8 in the second half. SMU needed to take advantage of the first-half turnovers, because Cincinnati only had four turnovers in the second half.
2. TRANSITION PLAY
This feels like the big reason why SMU couldn’t win. The Mustangs were 13-20 from the charity stripe, and while they were 12-16 in the second half, Yanick Moreira’s front end 1-and-1 miss with 3:34 left felt like it would come back to haunt SMU. Teams that successfully come back to win usually take advantage of every chance to score with the clock stopped. SMU couldn’t do that.
3. FOUL SHOOTING