Cincinnati Bearcats: Win streak snapped at 15 with 21-point loss to SMU

DALLAS (AP) -- Southern Methodist hadn't beaten a Top 10 team in 26 years. But Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown, his players and fans were ready for No. 7 Cincinnati.

The Mustangs beat their third Top 25 foe in five weeks in their newly renovated building with a 76-55 victory Saturday night, ending the Bearcats' 15-game winning streak.

“There’s not much to say. They beat us in every facet of the game,” UC coach Mick Cronin said. “We didn’t meet the challenge. ... I think we just got rattled, no question about it. We didn’t show poise.”

“Nobody in the country plays harder than Cincinnati,” Brown said. “That’s what we talked about before the game — matching their energy. We played as hard as they did.”

Never mind UC's reputation as a good defensive team. SMU is No. 2 in the nation in FG defense, and the Mustangs held the Bearcats to 35.4 percent shooting (17 of 48) while making 10 steals.

UC's leading scorer, Sean Kilpatrick, was just 5-of-18, including 3-of-12 on 3-pointers, though he still finished with 22 points.

RELATED:  See the box score and play-by-play.

Cincinnati (22-3, 11-1 in the American Athletic Conference) hadn't lost since dropping consecutive games against New Mexico and Xavier in the first half of December. The Bearcats beat SMU 65-57 at home in the AAC opener on New Year's Day.

With wins over Memphis and UConn, SMU (19-5, 8-3) has now beaten three Top 25 opponents in seven games since moving back into Moody Coliseum on campus last month.

When this one was over, fired-up fans rushed the floor.

“If we didn’t have a good team, all we’d have is a beautiful building,” said Brown.

Brown, the only head coach to win both an NCAA title (Kansas, 1988) and an NBA championship (Detroit Pistons, 2004), has resurrected the SMU program in just his second season.

“I didn’t imagine it would be like this this quickly. But I was hopeful that we could get it that people wanted to see our team play and appreciate the fact that we’re playing hard and playing the right way,” Brown said.

Nick Russell had 15 points to go with several big steals for SMU.

“At the beginning of the year, we knew that we believed in each other, but not a lot of people did,” Russell said. “I’m sure nobody expected us to be here. We knew what we had: We’ve got a great coach, a great coaching staff — the sky’s the limit.”

Ben Moore added 15 points for SMU while Nic Moore scored 14 and Cannen Cunningham 11.

Russell had two steals in less than a minute that led to breakaway baskets, with a 3-pointer from Nic Moore in between, to cap an 11-0 run by the Mustangs after Cincinnati cut the gap to 48-41 midway through the second half.

The Bearcats scored six points in a row 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. They didn't get any closer after Russell made a layup after Markus Kennedy broke through two defenders and passed him the ball.

SMU was back up 59-41 with 8:13 left when Russell had a steal and broke free for a thunderous, one-handed dunk. Moore hit a 3-pointer right before that, after Ben Moore's breakaway layup that came after another steal by Russell.

“When Nick got a steal and they didn’t even try to run back with him, I figured it was over,” Cunningham said.

The sellout crowd in the 7,000-seat building broke into chants of "Larry! Larry! Larry!" several times - from before tipoff 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!"

Maybe that won't be the case any more for the Mustangs after another convincing victory over a ranked team.

This week SMU could get the first ranking of its own since 1985.

 

 

 

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