By Ryan Roberts
On the final day of the regular season, the Bearcats closed out American Athletic Conference play for good against the SMU Mustangs. Wes Miller and the Bearcat faithful honored seniors David Dejulius, Kalu Ezikpe, and Rob Phinisee pre game and were looking for their 20th win of the season heading in to next week's conference tournament in Fort Worth.
UC got off to a hot start hitting their first three 3 point attempts. David Dejulius got the scoring started with a 3 and after SMU took a brief 6-5 lead, Landers Nolley hit back to back threes to give the Bearcats an 11-6 lead on 4 of 6 shooting from the field at the 16 minute media timeout.
Ody Oguama scored out of the media timeout followed by a Dejulius free throw to extend the Bearcats lead to 14-5 but an almost 3 minute scoring drought allowed SMU to close the gap to two at 14-12. Mika Adams Woods and Landers Nolley hit back to back threes from the wing to halt the scoring drought and push the Bearcats lead back out to 7, 20-13 with 11:54 remaining in the first half. Through the first 8 minutes of play, the Bearcats were 7 for 11 from the field and 5 of 6 from 3.
SMU was able to cut the Bearcats lead to 22-18 on an Efe Odigie second chance layup but the Mustangs followed the mini run with a scoring drought that lasted 2:32. That drought allowed the Bearcats to extend their lead to 29-20, capped off by back to back Dejulius mid range jumpers at the 7:52 mark of the first half.
A jeremiah Davenport 3 extended the Bearcats lead to 10, 32-22, which was followed by a dead ball technical foul on SMU big man Edy Odigie. Dejulius calmly went to the line and knocked down both free throws to give Cincinnati a 12 point lead at the 5:33 mark, as well as the ball. Landers Nolley and Jeremiah Davenport hit back to back 3's to extend the lead to 40-24 as the Cats were on an 11-2 run with 3:57 left in the first half.
SMU got hot down the stretch, hitting 3 of their final 4 field goal attempts but Cincinnati was able to avoid any meltdowns and went in to the half up 17, 51-34. Kalu Ezikpe capped the Bearcats scoring with an and one with 3 seconds left.
Landers Nolley was the Bearcats' leading scorer at the half with 14 points. David Dejulius and Jeremiah Davenport were also in double figures with 12 and 10 points. For the half, the Bearcats shot 18 for 33 from the field and drained 9 of their 17 three point attempts.
Zhuric Phelps led SMU with 11 first half points as the Mustangs were 13 for 27 from the field with 7 turnovers.
The second half started with 3 Cincinnati turnovers in the first 1:25 as SMU scored the first 4 points but Dejulius scored on consecutive possessions to prevent SMU from gaining any momentum. Landers Nolley and Ody Oguama traded baskets with Jalen Smith as the Bearcats held a 59-42 lead at the first media stop of the second half.
While Cincinnati started the half 3 of 4 from the field, they followed that with a 1 for 7 stretch, allowing SMU to cut the lead to 61-50 on a Zach Nutall three ball with 13:38 left in the game. David Dejulius and Jeremiah Davenport stopped the drought with baskets on back to back possessions and Mika Adams Woods got a steal and lay up in transition to push the Cats lead back to 17, 69-52, at the under 12 media timeout.
SMU had an almost 4 minute scoring drought end at the 8:13 mark but CIncinnati was unable to capitalize on the Mustangs' struggles from the field as SMU made 6 free throws during the same span. Four straight points by Vik Lahkin gave UC a 78-60 lead with 7 minutes left on the scoreboard.
David Dejulius extended the Cats' lead to 89-68 with a personal 6-0 run over 1:23 and with 2:45 remaining, the Bearcats extended the lead to 91-70 on a Lahkin put back dunk as they were well on their way to their 20th win of the season.
Dejulius scored 18 of his game high 30 points in the second half as Cincinnati closed the regular season with a 97-74 win over SMU . Landers Nolley also helped lead the Cats with 24 points , including 5 of 8 from 3.
Jeremiah Davenport was the only other Bearcat in double figures with 12 points.
SMU was led by Zhuric Phelps with 17 points, Mo NJ]jie with 14 points, Efe Odigie with 12 points, as well as Samuell Williamson and Jalen Smith with 10 points, each.
- SMU shot 34% from the field in the second half, after shooting 48% in the first half
- UC finished the game shooting 57% from the field, as well as 44% from 3 (11-25)
- SMU had 44 points in the paint. Cincinnati had 24 second chance points
- Cincinnati outrebounded SMU 35-32
Up Next: Cincinnati will face Temple in the quarter finals of the AAC conference tournament at 3 EST. Cincinnati and Temple split the season series with both teams winning at home.