Around the American: Mustangs keep winning while Tulsa remains Golden

Rodney Purvis rises for a layup in UConn's loss to SMU at the XL Center on Saturday, November 25, 2017. (Zhelun Lang/The Daily Campus)

Despite only playing and winning one game this week, the SMU Mustangs (25-4, 15-1 the American) are champions of the week in the American Athletic Conference and are now alone on top of the standings. With their 69-61 road victory over the Huskies as well as the Bearcats’ shocking road loss, the Mustangs now are just one home win away from clinching the AAC title.

With ten games played this week in the AAC, the Golden Hurricanes, Knights and Cougars all went a perfect 2-0 and saw their positioning get better for the upcoming AAC tournament. The Tulsa Golden Hurricanes (14-14, 8-8 the American) were able to crawl back to both a .500 record in the American and overall as they defeated the bottom dwelling USF Bulls (7-20, 1-15 the American) by 14 and the Pirates by eight, with both wins coming at home.

With the win over USF, the Golden Hurricanes snapped a six-game losing streak as Pat Birt scored 16 points and led five players in double-figure scoring. In the second victory of the week, Junior Etou scored 23 points and Sterling Taplin had 13 points, nine assists and six rebounds to lead Tulsa. The defeat for the Bulls was the lone game of the week for them as Geno Thorpe scored 24 points for South Florida in the loss.

The UCF Knights (19-10, 10-7 the American) have now won four games in a row as they defeated Temple on the road by two points last Wednesday and the Cincinnati Bearcats (25-4, 14-2 the American) by four points at home. In the game against Temple, the Knights needed late heroics from B.J. Taylor who made the go-ahead jumper with 55 seconds to go and added a free throw with three seconds left to give UCF the two point victory.

Cincinnati guard Troy Caupain (10) drives around Central Florida guard B.J. Taylor (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017. (AP Photo/Reinhold Matay)

Against the Bearcats, Taylor was once again the playmaker for the Knights as he scored 27 points to beat the No.15 team in the country. With the four game winning streak, the Knights now sit in fourth place in the conference with one more game to go. They will travel to last place USF on Thursday. With the loss, the Bearcats now drop to second in the conference and need the Mustangs lose to both Tulsa and Memphis at home.

The final team who went 2-0 this week were the Houston Cougars (20-8, 11-5 the American) who now sit a comfortable one game in the win column over UCF and two games ahead of them in the loss column. The Cougars were able to beat UConn by five points last Wednesday behind Damyean Dotson’s 25 points and nine rebounds and squeak out a one point road win over Memphis on Sunday. In the victory over the Tigers, Dotson was in the lead, scoring 31 points, as the Cougars won and clinched a first-round bye in the American Athletic Conference tournament.

As previously noted, the Temple Owls (15-15, 6-11 the American) lost at home by two points to UCF but were able to snap a three game losing streak in a double overtime victory over the Tulane Green Wave (5-23, 2-14 the American). In the win, Shizz Alston Jr. scored 11 of his 25 points in the second overtime to hold off the Green Wave, who scored with 9.5 seconds to send it to overtime. They also hit a buzzer beater three to send it to double overtime. The Green Wave went 0-2 in the week as they lost by three points at home last Tuesday against the ECU Pirates (13-16, 5-11 the American).

Rounding out the league, the Memphis Tigers (18-11, 8-8 the American) dropped by games this week as they lost the aforementioned matchup to Houston by one. They also lost by 13 on the road to Cincinnati. The Tigers now find themselves tied for sixth place in the conference as they need to win both games and hope for UConn and Tulsa losses if they have any chance to grab a first round bye.

There are ten more games before the conference tournament and teams will look to stay or get hot before traveling to the XL Center in Connecticut. The big game to watch this week is SMU against Tulsa on Thursday as the Mustangs look to clinch the AAC while the Golden Hurricanes look for a first round bye.


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.