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SMU ends No. 7 Cincinnati’s 15-game streak, 76-55

DALLAS – Nick Russell had 15 points to go with several big steals, and coach Larry Brown’s SMU Mustangs stayed undefeated at home with a 76-55 victory Saturday night over No. 7 Cincinnati, ending the Bearcats’ 15-game winning streak.

SMU (19-5, 8-3 American Athletic Conference) has already beaten three Top 25 opponents in seven games since moving into the renovated Moody Coliseum on campus five weeks ago.

Before that, the Mustangs hadn’t defeated a ranked opponent anywhere since December 2003. They hadn’t had multiple wins against Top 25 teams in the same season since 1984-85, the last time SMU appeared in the poll.

When this one was over, fired-up fans rushed the floor.

Russell had two steals in less than a minute that led to breakaway baskets, with a 3-pointer from Nic Moore in between, to cap an 11-0 run by the Mustangs after Cincinnati (22-3, 11-1) cut the gap to 48-41 midway through the second half.

Cincinnati hadn’t lost since dropping consecutive games against New Mexico and Xavier in the first half of December. The Bearcats beat SMU 65-57 at home in the AAC opener on New Year’s Day.

Ben Moore also had 15 points for SMU, while Nic Moore scored 14 and Cannen Cunningham 11.

AAC scoring leader Sean Kilpatrick led Cincinnati with 22 points on 5-of-18 shooting, including 3 for 12 on 3-pointers.

The Bearcats scored six points in a row to make it 48-41, the closest they had been since there were 3 minutes left in the first half, when Titus Rubles hit two free throws after being fouled on a breakaway drive after stealing a pass. They didn’t get any closer after Russell made a layup after Markus Kennedy broke through two defenders and passed him the ball.

SMU was back up 59-41 with 8:13 left when Russell had a steal and broke free for a thunderous, one-handed dunk. Nic Moore hit a 3-pointer right before that, after Ben Moore’s breakaway layup that came after another steal by Russell.

The sellout crowd in the 7,000-seat building broke into chants of “Larry! Larry! Larry!” several times – from before tipoff until late in the game. While students at one end serenaded Cincinnati players with “Over-rated,” students sitting at the end near Brown and the SMU bench yelled out “Under-rated!”

Maybe that won’t be the case any more for the Mustangs after another convincing victory over a ranked team.

One of the last chants summed it up best: “Moody Madness!”

The Mustangs won all five of their home games played off campus before re-opening Moody Coliseum with a 74-65 win Jan. 4 over then-No. 17 UConn. On the Saturday before Cincinnati came to town, SMU beat then-No. 22 Memphis 87-72.

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