The No. 1 Cincinnati Bearcats pounded the No. 8 SMU Mustangs on the boards in route to a 61-51 win the American Athletic Conference quarterfinals.
“We played hard enough to get a win in the second half,” Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin said post game. “We picked it up on the defensive end. We picked it up on the backboard.
The Bearcats out-rebounded SMU 39-32 overall and 14-9 on the offensive glass. That led to a 17-7 advantage in second-chance points. SMU head coach Tim Jankovich said that disparity was exasperated by his team’s depth issues forcing him to play zone.
“We’ve got seven people, some playing hurt,” Jankovich said. “We had to make that choice that we had to become a zone team and when you do that, rebounding is far more difficult.”
Senior forward Kyle Washington led Cincinnati with 15 points while junior guard Cane Broome added 13. AAC Player of the Year Gary Clark grabbed 11 boards to go along with 12 points.
SMU junior guard Jahmal McMurray led SMU with 17 points with senior guard Ben Emelogu II adding 11.
Cincinnati moves on to the face the winner of No. 5 Memphis vs. No. 4 Tulsa in the semifinals. SMU awaits to see if the NIT will come calling.
In the first game of the 2018 American Athletic Conference Championship, No. 9 SMU (17-15) defeated No. 8 UConn (14-18) 80-73.
The Mustangs were led by senior guard Ben Emelogu’s 23 points and senior forward Akoy Agau’s 21. Sophomore guard Christian Vital led the Huskies with 24 while senior guard Antoine Anderson had 19.
SMU head coach Tim Jankovich said he was not only happy with the win, but he was particularly happy to see Emelogu and Agau play so well. He said the two players have been going through several off the court issues.
“I swore I would challenge anyone, ever, to find me a couple guys who have been through more amazingly difficult adversity in their careers than [Emelogu and Agau],” he said.
The loss capped a disappointing season for UConn as they’ll miss the NCAA tournament for the second season in a row. It has led to speculation about Ollie’s job security. After the game, Ollie said he expected to return as coach next season, but he also said he needed to evaluate everything he did as a coach.
“I’m gonna assess everything I’ve done as a coach and see how I can get better,” Ollie said.
“I can’t name out a list, but we don’t want to be here,” he continued. “We don’t want to be 14-18.”
With the win, SMU will move on to face No. 1 Cincinnati on Friday. UConn’s season is over.
NOTE: Agau twisted his ankle late in the game. He said he’ll ice it up and be good to go on Friday vs. Cincinnati.
The college basketball world has its eyes focused on Kentucky in the SEC, but it’s another team in that league that has quietly been having an outstanding season. The Arkansas Razorbacks have begun to distance themselves from everyone in the league not named Kentucky.
With play reminiscent of the Nolan Richardson days, the Razorbacks play an exciting brand of trapping and pressing that is finally paying dividends. The “fastest 40 minutes in basketball” is forcing over 16 turnovers per game giving them 11th most possessions per game nationally.
Coach Mike Anderson is back home and it looks like he’s bringing the old days back. Mark Feb. 28 on your calendars folks. That’s the day the Hogs invade Rupp.
Stock Up: Valparaiso. This team is dangerous. While the country was expecting Green Bay to have a big season in the Horizon, it’s been 24-4 Valpo who’s running away with league title.
Stock Down: George Washington. The Colonials had a really bad week last week. Losing at Duquesne and home to Briante Weber-less VCU made GW’s RPI plummet to the 70’s. Going to be an uphill climb for the Colonials the rest of the way.
Stock Up: SMU. Last year on Selection Sunday, the committee took exception to the Mustangs strength and schedule and road record. That will not be an issue this year. SMU took care of business on paper and is now doing it on the court.
Stock Down: Old Dominion. A once promising at-large resume is faltering in the unfavorable light of being 7-5 in Conference USA.
On to the bracket.
Last Four In: Stanford, St. John’s, Colorado St, NC State
Last Four Out: Pittsburgh, Tulsa, Miami (FL), Oregon