How it Happened
Last month, SMU needed a big second half run to get past Cincinnati, but this time around SMU used a big first half run and stayed hot in the second half to win the AAC Tournament title 71-56 over Cincinnati Sunday afternoon. SMU jumped out to a quick 11-2 lead as the Bearcats started the game 1 for 15 from the field. SMU certainly had their chances to build a bigger lead than just 9 after the Bearcats shots just 24 percent in the first half. Senior forward Ben Moore led the way for SMU with 10 points and 9 rebounds, while Ben Emelogu had six first half points including a deep three at the buzzer to help give SMU some momentum heading into halftime. SMU came out of the break shooting with Shake Milton and Jarrey Foster both hitting open threes to push SMU's lead up to 13 just 4 minutes into the second half and never looked back. SMU had trouble closing out games both on Friday and Saturday, but had no such trouble against the Bearcats on Saturday maintaining a double digit lead most of the second half. After combining for just 5 points in the first half, AAC Player of the Year Semi Ojeleye and Jarrey Foster combined for 22 points in the second half to fend off the Bearcats.
What it Means
SMU added another quality win to their resume, but also head into the NCAA Tournament with a tremendous amount of momentum. SMU controlled this game from the opening tip and showed just how far they have come since their first matchup against Cincinnati on January 12, which was their last loss.
Player of the Game- Sterling Brown
It was another solid game for Sterling Brown both on the offensive and defensive end. Brown finished the day with 18 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists. Down the stretch, with Cincinnati trying to mount a comeback, Brown continued to hit timely shots including a key 3 point play with just over two minutes to play. Equally as important was the job Brown did holding down Jacob Evans who finished the day with 10 points on 3 for 11 shooting.
Ben Emelogu briefly left the game in the first half after a hard screen in the first half. The junior guard responded by hitting two threes to close out the first half including one from just inside half court to beat the buzzer.
SMU will head back to the NCAA Tournament after their postseason ban last year.