Cincinnati pulls away to beat SMU 65-57

Cincinnati Bearcats forward Titus Rubles shoots a shot against Southern Methodist Mustangs guard Sterling Brown during the first half of the game at Fifth Third Arena.

Robert Leifheit/Rob Leifheit-USA TODAY Sports

CINCINNATI (AP) — Justin Jackson scored 17 points as the Cincinnati Bearcats pulled away for a 65-57 win over Southern Methodist on Wednesday night in the first game for both teams in the new American Athletic Conference.

Sean Kilpatrick overcame a second straight poor shooting night to finish with 13 points and Jermaine Sanders and Shaquille Thomas each added 10 as the Bearcats (12-2) extended their winning streak to five games.

Kilpatrick, who went into the game leading the AAC with an average of 19.1 points per game, is a combined 5 for 25 over his last two games.

Markus Kennedy was the only Mustang to reach double figures, finishing with 12 points as SMU (10-3) was held to its second-lowest point total of the season. The Mustangs saw their winning streak snapped at five games.

A crowd of 7,239 at 13,176-seat Fifth Third Arena watched the fledgling AAC make its Cincinnati basketball debut. SMU, after playing its first game in 12 days, is scheduled to return home to face No. 17 Connecticut on Saturday. Cincinnati is scheduled to go on the road to meet 18th-ranked Memphis on Saturday.

Sanders connected on back-to-back 3-pointers to help Cincinnati take a 32-30 halftime lead. Kennedy scored six of the last eight points of a 16-3 SMU run that left the Mustangs leading, 22-14, with 6:34 left in the first half. The Bearcats countered with a 12-0 run capped by four straight points by Jackson, whose five blocked shots before halftime matched his season high for a game. The Bearcats never trailed after Jackson converted a three-point play for a 24-22 lead with 3:24 left before halftime.

Jackson went to the bench with his third foul with 14:21 left in the second half, but he returned to deliver an impressive dunk and a bounce pass through two defenders to Kilpatrick for a backdoor layup that gave the Bearcats a 48-39 lead with 10:47 left in the game.