No. 19 Cincinnati expects no freebies against SMU (Jan 07, 2018)

BY AP • January 6, 2018

No. 19 Cincinnati didn't play well but won at Temple on Thursday night, thanks to Jacob Evans' game-winning jumper with one second left.

The SMU Mustangs might not be as accommodating on Sunday afternoon when they face the Bearcats at BB&T Arena in Highland Heights, Ky.

"You learn a lesson in victory, which is a good thing," Bearcats coach Mick Cronin said after the 55-53 win over the Owls. "We've got a target on our back. That's why it's so hard to continue to win in college basketball. ... The game is not played on paper."

The Bearcats (13-2, 2-0 American Athletic Conference) own a 7-5 lead in the all-time series against SMU, including a 6-0 mark at home. But, the Mustangs won two of three meetings last season, including a 60-51 win on Feb. 12 in Dallas and a 71-56 win in the championship game of the AAC tournament.

Cincinnati owns the nation's longest home-court win streak at 34 consecutive games. The Bearcats have not lost at home since Dec. 29, 2015, a 77-70 setback to Temple. Cincinnati also has won 18 consecutive conference home games during the streak.

SMU (12-4, 2-1) is coming off a tough 73-70 loss at Tulane on Thursday. The Mustangs played without freshman Ethan Chargois, who was sick. Chargois is averaging 12.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game this season and had started every game before Thursday. He is shooting 43.9 percent from 3-point range with 25 makes from behind the arc.

"Ethan is a big part of our team offensively," Mustangs forward Jarrey Foster said, according to the Dallas Morning News. "With him missing in the game, Tulane just sat their big man in the paint and clogged the paint for us. That was really hurtful for us in that game."

Bearcats senior forward Gary Clark didn't have his best game against Temple, but still managed 10 points and four rebounds. Clark, who averages 12.3 points and 8.4 rebounds, had only four shot attempts on Thursday. Kyle Washington picked up the slack with 18 points and six boards.

Cincinnati's calling card always is its aggressive defense. The Bearcats held Temple without a field goal for the final five minutes. SMU went scoreless for nearly four minutes down the stretch in its loss to Tulane. The Mustangs can ill-afford a similar dry spell against the Bearcats on Sunday.

SMU has six players averaging double figures, led by Shake Milton's 17.2 points and 4.5 assists per game.

The Mustangs have gotten off to slow starts in each of their past two games but need to avoid another early dry spell on Sunday at BB&T Arena on the campus of Northern Kentucky University where the Bearcats are playing their home games this season while Fifth Third Arena undergoes an $87 million renovation.

Cincinnati is looking to start 3-0 in conference play for the second consecutive season and third time in five years as members of the AAC.

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