No. 23 Cincinnati seeks fourth straight vs. SMU
The No. 23 Cincinnati Bearcats cap off a brutal road trip and put their three-game winning streak on the line against Southern Methodist on Wednesday night in American Athletic Conference action.
The Bearcats (23-4, 12-2 AAC) are coming off a victory at Connecticut on Sunday and travel to Dallas to take on the Mustangs (13-13, 5-9).
The second-place Bearcats are trying to chase down conference leader Houston, which owns a one-game lead over Cincy. SMU enters the contest ninth in the AAC, having lost six of its past seven. The Mustangs are coming off a 95-48 beating at the hands of UCF on Sunday.
The game is the second between the two teams. SMU played the Bearcats tough on their home floor earlier this month, losing 73-68. The Mustangs battled back from a 12-point deficit to tie and make Cincy earn the victory.
"I'm proud how these guys are somehow emotionally, mentally, physically hanging in there," said SMU coach Tim Jankovich after the game, for which he was down to seven scholarship players.
Cincinnati's Jarron Cumberland scored 24 in that game, and the junior guard figures to play a central role in Wednesday's tilt as well. Cumberland is the third leading scorer in the AAC at 18.6 points per game.
SMU leading scorer Jahmal McMurray enters play the fifth-leading scorer in the AAC at 17.6 points per game.
McMurray gets plenty of help on the offensive end with Ethan Chargois, Jimmy Whitt and Isiaha Mike all averaging 12-plus points per game. Whitt leads the team in assists (4.2) and steals (1.4). Chargois leads the team in rebounds, pulling down 6.6 boards per game.
SMU boasts a plus-3.5 rebound margin, good for fourth in the AAC. The Mustangs are averaging 12.9 offensive rebounds per game, second best in the AAC and 22nd in the country.
Outside of Cumberland, only sophomore guard Keith Williams averages double figures for the Bearcats, scoring 11.0 per game. Cumberland also leads the team in assists (3.6) and steals (1.3).
The Bearcats are coming off two hard-fought victories and have had to battle to the end in a slew of games the past month. Cincy had to stave off a pesky UConn team 64-60 on Sunday, one game after holding off UCF by five at home. Prior to a 10-point victory over Wichita State and a seven-point loss to Houston, the Bearcats won their three previous AAC contests by a combined 14 points.
Cumberland has scored just 19 points combined in Cincy's past two victories.
"If we could guard everybody in our league the way Jarron was guarded the last two games, we'd give up about 22 points a game, as good as we are on defense," Bearcats coach Mick Cronin said Sunday. "If we were allowed to be as physical as the last two teams have been against Jarron."
The Bearcats allow just 61.5 points per game, good for 11th best in the country, as of Tuesday.
The Mustangs, meanwhile, have just one victory in the month of February, a 77-59 home win over UConn last week.
SMU hasn't defeated Cincinnati since March 2017 and has dropped four in row to the Bearcats.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 26, 2019