CINCINNATI (AP) — Jarron Cumberland is finally feeling healthy, and it shows in his shooting.
The American Athletic Conference’s reigning player of the year had a season-high 28 points Tuesday night, and Cincinnati led the whole way during a 65-43 victory over SMU, its seventh straight win over the Mustangs.
Earlier this season, Cumberland was limited by ankle and hip injuries and was benched for one game as Cincinnati (13-7, 6-2) adapted to new coach John Brannen’s style. He’s back in form midway through conference play.
“I feel real good,” Cumberland said. “I still have little injuries, but I’m getting treatment.”
The Bearcats have won five of six with Cumberland leading the way. He had 15 points in the first half Tuesday, when Cincinnati led by as many as 17 points.
“Tonight he was the guy he was last year,” SMU coach Tim Jankovich said. “He’s getting healthy and confident.”
Cumberland finished 9 of 13 from the field, and had team highs with nine rebounds and four assists. He repeatedly found open shots from the middle of the floor.
“Just something that they were giving me,” Cumberland said. “They were playing me one way. I saw an open shot. I felt like it was open in the paint right there.”
SMU (15-5, 5-3) had a three-game winning streak snapped. Tyson Jolly had 16 points for the Mustangs, who were coming off a 74-70 win at then-No. 20 Memphis on Saturday.
The Mustangs missed 10 of their first 11 shots as Cincinnati pulled ahead 16-3 and was never seriously threatened.
“Just too many guys had a rough night,” Jankovich said. “We just weren’t sharp at all. We weren’t sharp in any way.”
Point guard Kendric Davis missed all six of his shots and failed to score for the first time this season. He came into the game second in the AAC at 16.2 points per game.
Cumberland was coming off his best half of the season. He scored 21 of his 22 points in the second half last Wednesday, leading the Bearcats to an 89-82 win at Temple. He was the catalyst again as the Bearcats took control.
The Mustangs trailed 33-19 at halftime, their fewest points in an opening half this season, and shot only 24 percent from the field. Cumberland scored nine consecutive points for Cincinnati, including a pair of steals and layups.
The Bearcats pushed the lead to 24 points midway through the second half. The Mustangs have overcome double-digit deficits to win games this season, but their poor shooting prevented a comeback.
They came into the game leading the AAC in field goal percentage at 46.6%. SMU couldn’t handle Cincinnati’s tight defense and shot a season-low 25.9% from the field, leading to a season low in points.
SMU: The Mustangs made an impressive finish to pull off that win at Memphis, closing the game with a 15-0 run. They came out sloppy against Cincinnati and never recovered, dooming their chances for another notable road win.
“I could feel it at the shoot-around,” Jankovich said. “Sometimes with a young team, they think the last game is just going to carry over. In college basketball, it couldn’t be more opposite.”
Cincinnati: The Bearcats have shown improvement the last few weeks with Cumberland rounding into form. Cumberland has scored at least 19 points in three of the last four games.
Cincinnati leads the series 14-5, including 9-0 at home. The Bearcats beat the Mustangs three times last season, including the quarterfinals of the AAC tournament.
LOW, LOW, LOW
The Mustangs’ previous low for first-half points was 20 during a 71-62 loss at Houston on Jan. 15. Their previous low for a game came during a 59-57 win at Evansville. Their previous shooting low was 35.6% during a 91-74 loss to Georgetown.
HOME SWEET HOME
After a loss to Colgate, the Bearcats have won their last five home games by 12, 16, 31, 25 and 22 points.
SMU hosts Tulane on Saturday. The Mustangs play at Tulane on Feb. 19.
Cincinnati hosts No. 21 Houston on Saturday. The Bearcats play at Houston on March 1.
More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25