Losers of six of their last nine games, the Mustangs looked to put an end to their tough patch against No. 6 Cincinnati Bearcats.
To add on to their recent struggles, SMU was without leading scorer Shake Milton for the third straight game with a hand injury and just before tip-off freshman Ethan Chargois was ruled out, leaving the Mustangs and coach Tim Jankovich with only six scholarship players and eight players total.
To start the first half, both teams were having trouble putting the ball in the bucket. After a 5-0 start by SMU, the Bearcats went on a 15-2 run and never let up off the gas as they took a 32-21 lead into halftime.
The Mustangs shot an abysmal 25.7% in the first half yet Cincinnati didn’t shoot much better at 33%. Jimmy Whitt Jr. was the only positive for SMU in the first half as he scored 10 of their 21 points.
The final 20 minutes shook out to be a lot of the same as Cincinnati ran away with the game. The ball continued to not bounce SMU’s way as they shot 32.2% on the night, leading to a 76-51 Cincinnati victory.
The Bearcats defense was ferocious, flying all over the court and defended the paint as if their life depended on it. Their offense was very efficient in the second half, shooting 56.7% in the final 20 minutes.
Jahmal McMurray got hot in garbage time, finishing with 19 points. Whitt Jr. also finished with 19 of his own, as he and McMurray shot a combined 15-32 while the rest of the team shot 4-27.
“It’s honestly the most surreal situation I’ve ever been in my life. And because I feel that, I feel for them like you can’t believe,” Jankovich stated postgame on the excess of injuries the team has suffered.
Aside from Shake Milton and Ethan Chargois, the Mustangs have lost Jarrey Foster and Everett Ray for the season with injuries.
“I’ve never been in a program in my life ever that had four players out. I’ve never seen three starters out. You have three returning players and two of them are out. I’ve just never seen anything like this.”
“And to be lucky enough to be in a program where the NCAA took more of our scholarships than any other team in basketball. You’re not as mad when you’re not getting hurt,” Jankovich declaimed on the loss of scholarships from the penalties stemming from the Larry Brown era.
“When you’re lucky and you’re not hurt, you’re just a little mad that they would make your program the one where they took the most all-time scholarships. I was always a little mad about that.”
Jankovich and the Mustangs will be hoping for good news on Chargois ankle injury, which he suffered before the game today. SMU will need to regroup and heal quickly as they take on Memphis on Valentine’s Day.
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