The American Athletic Conference Basketball Championship tournament is underway and news is happening faster than it can be typed. The first round is now history, with the winners advancing to the quarter finals to face the top four seeds.
Game 1 of Round 1
SMU Mustangs faced the UConn Huskies in the first game of the conference tournament. The game put 9 seed SMU against the 8 seed Huskies in a de-facto rematch of their regular season game on January 25 in Storrs. The Huskies prevailed in that matchup, 63-52. The Mustangs came out motivated and took the early lead with an Akoy Agau layup in the opening minutes and never relinquished that lead. By the time the first half was over, the Huskies trailed by 19, 42-23.
Things remained ugly throughout much of the second half, but UConn did get things going late in the period. With just over six minutes left in the game, the Huskies went on an 18-5 scoring run to get within four with 41 seconds remaining. SMU was able to hold on, making seven of their last eight shots from the free throw line, securing their 80-73 victory.
Agau, Ben Emelogu, and Jahmal McMurray were a three-headed beast for the Mustangs, scoring 21, 23, and 19 points, respectively.
For the Huskies, Christian Vital scored 23 and Antwoine Anderson added 19.
SMU will move on to face 1 seed and #8 ranked Cincinnati on Friday. Tipoff is set for noon.
Game 2 Round 1
Game two of the tournament featured a matchup of the USF Bulls and the Memphis Tigers, the former of which handed the latter one of the biggest upsets of the year in on March 1st, a 75-51 embarrassment at the hands of a then 9-21 USF. The stage was set for Memphis to make things right in the world, and punish the Bulls with a similar embarrassment.
And, that’s the way things looked like they would go from the start, when Kyvon Davenport gave the Tigers a 3-0 lead just over a minute into the game. That lead would jump to double digits late in the first half, but USF clawed within nine to go into the halftime break trailing the Tigers, 38-29.
Memphis built on their lead in the second half, going up by 15 with less than 10 minutes remaining in the game. The Bulls would put together a 15-7 scoring run to get within four points with four minutes on the clock. The two would slug it out for the final four minutes, with USF getting within three points with a shot by Stephan Jiggetts with 21 seconds to go. Justin Brown sank the first of two free throws to put them within a pair, but just a second remained on the clock when his second shot bounced off the backboard and neither team was able to secure the ball in regulation. Memphis escaped with at 79-77 win.
Davenport had a terrific game for the Tigers, making 27 points and pulling down nine rebounds. David Nickleberry was the second leading scorer for Memphis, scoring 14.
For USF, it was the freshman, David Collins, who had a career day, scoring 30 points, tying a school record for most points scored in a game. Unfortunately for the Bulls, the only other player in double digits was Jiggetts, who finished with 16.
The win gives Memphis a shot at 4 seed Tulsa on Friday at 2 PM.
Game 3 Round 1
Temple and Tulane were the third matchup of the day. Tulane won both of the regular season matchups with the Owls, and it was the Green Wave who took control early in this game. Tulane didn’t relinquish their lead until just over four minutes remained in the first half. Temple’s Josh Brown hit a three-pointer to give the Owls a two point, 30-28 lead with 4:17 on the clock. The Owls would hold on to the lead into halftime, with the Green Wave trailing, 39-35.
The Owls maintained and built on their lead in the second half, going up by 13 midway through the period. Tulane would make it close down the stretch, getting within one point on a Cameron Reynolds three-pointer, 78-77, with 32 seconds on the clock. The Green Wave needed to foul to stop the clock, but Temple’s Shizz Alton Jr. and Josh Brown made all four of their free throws, sealing their five-point, 82-77 victory.
Reynolds finished with 22 points for the Green Wave. Melvin Frazier scored 15, the second highest scorer for Tulane.
Temple had four players scoring in double digits, led by Obi Enechionyia, who scored 19. Alston Jr. had 17 with eight assists, followed closely by Josh Brown’s 15. J.P. Moorman rounded the top four with ten points.
The Owls will face 2 seed, Wichita State on Thursday at 7 PM.
Game 4 Round 1
The hometown UCF Knights hosted the ECU Pirates in the final game of the first round. When these two teams met on the final day of 2017, the Knights embarrassed ECU, 59-39.
Not surprisingly, UCF took control early, leading every minute of the first half. With just under eight minutes remaining the period, the Knights broke into a double digit lead over the Pirates, 21-9. UCF maintained their double digit lead into halftime, 36-25.
The Knights held firm into the second half, leading by 14 with just under 15 minutes to go. Then, ECU went on a 31-1 run, getting within one point, 46-45, with 9:36 on the clock. UCF put together a run of their own, 20-7, to finish out the game 66-52.
Williams had 17 points for ECU. B.J. Tyson was the only other Pirate to break into double digits, scoring 14. As a team, ECU shot just 39% from the field.
Coincidentally, UCF also had just two players scoring in double digits, for the exact same totals. B.J. Taylor scored 17 and A.J. Davis contributed 14. Chad Brown pulled down a team-leading 10 rebounds.
UCF will meet 3 seed Houston in Round 2 on Friday at 9 PM.