Around the American: UCF Knights surging, SMU and Cincinnati maintain course

Cincinnati guard Troy Caupain, left, grabs a rebound in front of Central Florida center Tacko Fall (24) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)

It was a packed week in the American conference for men’s basketball, with 10 conference games, including four on an action packed Saturday. With February coming to an end, the conference tournament is almost in view and the top five teams are all fighting for a first round bye, while the middle of the pack are vying for favorable matchups.

Since their three point loss at home to the UConn Huskies, the University of Central Florida Knights (17-10, 8-7 the American) had a very good week, going 2-0 with wins over the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes (12-14, 6-8 the American) and over East Carolina ( 12-15, 4-10 the American). The Knights needed the wins after losing six of their last seven games before this two game winning streak. In the three-point victory over East Carolina, Matt Williams made three of his six pointers as he set the conference record for three pointers in a season (98).

The Knights are now one game behind in the loss column from fifth place Memphis, as UCF will try to make it a three game winning streak this Wednesday against a struggling Temple (14-14, 5-10 the American) squad who has lost three of their last four games.

Also joining the Knights in going 2-0 this week were the Huskies, the SMU Mustangs (24-4, 14-1 the American) and the Cincinnati Bearcats (24-3, 13-1 the American). Both the Mustangs and Bearcats are nationally ranked and both teams are a perfect 16-0 at home. The Bearcats had a very comfortable week as they dispatched the bottom dwelling USF Bulls (7-19, 1-14 the American) on the road by 14 and defeated the Golden Hurricanes by 20 at home. With the home victory, Cincinnati has now won 24 straight at home and their head coach Mick Cronin recorded his 300th career victory.

The first place Mustangs had a mini scare at home against the five win Tulane Green Wave (5-21, 2-12 the American) as they rallied from a 15-point halftime deficit in order to extend their home winning streak to 20 games in a row. Later in the week, the Mustangs had to rally once again to defeat third place Houston (18-8, 9-5 the American), ending the Cougars five-game winning streak. In the two victories, SMU’s Semi Ojeleye had 34 of his 40 points in the second half and has been a vital part of the Mustangs current 10-game winning streak.

Five teams this week failed to get a victory. The Memphis Tigers (18-9, 8-6 the American) fell to the Huskies by three, Houston lost to SMU despite Rob Gray Jr. scoring 23 points, while the Temple Owls, USF Bulls and Golden Hurricanes all went 0-2. Tulane, after losing by just five to SMU, went on to demolish the Bulls by 23 at home as Melvin Frazier scored a season-high 27 points for the Green Wave. Also going 1-1 in the week were the Pirates who were able to beat the Owls by 14 at home.

In the week ahead there are some huge games for seeding implication; East Carolina will play Tulane for the ninth seed and chance to avoid the play in game on Tuesday. On Wednesday the Huskies will play the Cougars in a battle for third place in the conference, while on Thursday Cincinnati will host the Tigers, as the Bearcats look to keep place with the Mustangs on top of the conference.


Matt Kren is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering women’s basketball. He can be reached via email at matthew.kren@uconn.edu.