MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) – On the eve of the final minutes of a tight game, Cincinnati 's number 24 had enough energy to retire and qualify for the American semi – finals. Athletic Conference
Jarron Cumberland played two games three points behind and finished with 26 points to help the Bearcats beat SMU 82-74 on Friday night. Cincinnati (26-6) will face the winner of the Wichita State-Temple in the semi-final.
Tied at 66 with 4:53 to go, the Bearcats move away and Cumberland takes over. His three-point games came with 3:46 left and 2:21. The Mustangs missed shots and were left abandoned in hopes of reducing their lead.
Instead, the Bearcats stretched the margin to 10 at least three times in the last minute as they made 7 free throws out of 8 during a sequence.
"We had to win with the attack," said Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin. "Our pass has been excellent, 15 assists for eight turnovers … and then, of course, Jarron is doing a great job of closing the game, he has done it all year."
Justin Jenifer and Tre Scott added 17 points, while Jenifer scored six throws – five in the 3-point range – for the Bearcats in second place. Scott also had 12 rebounds, while Cumberland had eight assists.
"It feels good when it comes back," Jenifer said of the shooting night. "I blame myself for missing shots, and today it was coming in. Today was my day, perfect days do not happen like that. Do not arrive often. "
Jimmy Whitt Jr. led the Mustangs (15-17) with a career-high 24 points. Jahmal McMurray added 18 points.
The Mustangs, after a 74-65 win over Tulsa on Thursday, shot 51.7 percent, while Cincinnati shot 50.8 percent.
Mustang coach Tim Jankovich said the difference was that the Bearcats had more energy. Four of the five starters from SMU played more than 33 minutes in a very emotional match, and there was not enough to finish.
"I give them a lot of credit, they hit a lot of blows that they would not normally do," Jankovich said of Cincinnati, adding, "I think we lost our lives. especially their front line, guys in the waves, they keep them cool, we leave our guys there a very long time … we could not finish.This is not an excuse, but I know that we have guys who are in the air.
For the Bearcats, despite the game's closure, there was no reason to panic, Cumberland said. Returning players from last season have intensified and Cincinnati has used this experience to survive many close games. Ten of the Bearcats' wins at the conference were one-digit.
"The coach told us we needed to keep our cool," said Cumberland. "We have to stay calm and just do what we had to do to win the game, because at the end of – at the final score – it's the only thing that matters."
SMU: The Mustangs fought valiantly to stay with the Bearcats and did a good job until the last minute. The match had seven ties and five lead changes. Whitt, who was responsible for keeping Cumberland, did an admirable job and added an offensive punch, making 12 shots on 19, while recovering seven rebounds.
CINCINNATI: Jenifer's perfect shooting night has apparently kept the Bearcats in control despite the SMU fight. The Bearcats then passed SMU 36-28, including 16 offensives, leading to 17 second chance points.
Cincinnati: Semi-finals on Saturday against the winner of the Temple-Wichita State.