Not many people could have predicted that SMU would be sitting atop the American Athletic Conference standings with less than a month until the conference tournament. But after a comeback victory against Cincinnati on Sunday night, that’s exactly where the Mustangs find themselves.
Led by Semi Ojeleye, who scored a team-high 18 points, and a double-double from Sterling Brown, SMU (22-4, 12-1 American) defeated the Bearcats by a score of 60-51 at Moody Coliseum, their 19th straight victory at home. The Mustangs went on a 15-0 run late in the second half and never looked back, as Cincinnati (22-3, 11-1) failed to make a field goal for the final four minutes of the game. SMU now sits at No. 19 in the latest AP Poll, while the Bearcats fell seven spots to No. 18 overall.
Elsewhere, third-place Houston defeated Tulsa 73-64 for its fifth straight victory. Guards Rob Gray Jr. and Damyean Dotson carried the Cougars (18-7, 9-4) with a combined total of 52 of the team’s 73 points. Tulsa’s Corey Henderson Jr. played excellently; scoring 19 on 5-of-7 shooting from 3-point range but it was not enough, as the Golden Hurricanes (12-12, 6-6) dropped their fourth straight.
In the most notable upset of the week, Temple beat Memphis 74-62 on the road. The Owls (14-12, 5-8) closed the first half on a dominant 18-0 run and showcased a strong team effort throughout, as four of five starters finished with double-digit scoring. Memphis (18-8, 8-5) got 27 from star Dedric Lawson, but the Tigers only shot 5-20 from three and totaled only eight assists. The loss drops Memphis to fourth place in the American, which could be significant for conference tournament seeding.
Down in Tampa, last place USF secured its first conference win of the season, defeating ECU 64-57 and snapping a 12-game losing streak. The Bulls (7-17, 1-12) were led by a superb performance from junior guard Geno Thorpe, who dropped team-leading 22 points to go along with eight assists. The ECU Pirates (11-14, 3-9) led for most of the first half, but had 15 turnovers and shot only 35.8% from the floor. The Pirates are now 0-9 on the road this season.
This week, the American’s two best teams play the two worst on Wednesday night, as No. 18 Cincinnati travels to USF and No. 19 SMU takes on Tulane at home. The most intriguing matchup is SMU at Houston on Saturday, as Houston looks for the upset and their sixth straight.