Sunday, March 12, 2017
SMU: 2016-17 American Athletic Men’s Basketball Champions
HARTFORD, Conn. -- Sterling Brown scored 18 points to help send No. 12 SMU streaking into the NCAA Tournament with a 71-56 victory over No. 15 Cincinnati in the American Athletic Conference championship game on Sunday.
Tournament MVP Simi Ojeleye added 14 points, Jarrey Foster had 13 and Ben Moore scored 12 for Mustangs (30-4), who won their 16th straight game and second AAC title in three years. The Mustangs took the championship in 2015, but missed last year's postseason under NCAA sanctions.
Jarron Cumberland had 14 points to lead Cincinnati (29-5), which has not won a conference title since capturing the Conference USA crown in 2004.
SMU started the year 4-3, but has reeled off 26 wins in 27 games. They went 17-1 to win the league's regular-season title, with the only loss coming by two points at Cincinnati in January.
The Mustangs never trailed in this one. They shot 50 percent from the field and made 10 of their 19 shots from 3-point range.
Brown scored six points to spark SMU on a game-opening 11-2 run. A 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer by Ben Emelogu from just inside the midcourt logo gave the Mustangs a 32-23 lead.
It was the lowest scoring first half of the season for the Bearcats.
Cincinnati made just one of its first 15 shots from the field, shot 34 percent for the game and missed 20 of 24 shots from behind the arc.
SMU hit four of its first five 3-point attempts in the second half to extend a nine-point lead to 17 at 48-31.
SMU: The Mustangs have more wins than any team in program history. They have won six straight AAC Tournament games and were hoping for their highest NCAA Tournament seed in 12 trips. SMU was seeded fourth in 1957, fifth in 1985 tournament and received a sixth seed in 2015 after winning the AAC Tournament in Hartford.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats will be heading to the NCAA Tournament for a seventh straight time. They one of just seven teams in that position (Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, North Carolina, VCU and Wisconsin).
SMU and Cincinnati both await their NCAA Tournament seeding.