Around the American: Cincinnati rises in the ranks

Cincinnati's Jacob Evans, center, shoots over ECU's Aaron Jackson (10) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018, in Highland Heights, Ky. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

There has been a shift of power atop the American Athletic Conference. Following back to back losses to SMU and Houston, Wichita State has fallen from seventh to 17th in the AP Top 25. Meanwhile, Cincinnati has moved up from 12th to ninth.

On Wednesday, SMU came into Wichita and Shake Milton couldn’t miss. Milton scored 33 points on just 14 shots while going five for six from deep to lead his team to a big road win. He also added five assists. Landry Shamet had 20 points and 10 assists for the Shockers. The Mustangs followed up  with a win over Tulane on Saturday to improve to a 14-6 record, including 4-3 in the conference. 

Houston beat Wichita State on Saturday behind Rob Gray’s 24 points. Guard Corey Davis Jr. added 17 points and eight rebounds. This was the first time in 22 years that Houston has beaten a ranked team. The Shockers’ leading scorer was senior center Shaquille Morris with 12. Shamet had just seven points on two of 10 shooting and three turnovers.

Wichita State was on a seven-game win streak and had only lost to ranked teams (Oklahoma and Notre Dame) before Wednesday.

“We have to work on everything. We have to work on our ability to score against that pressure. We have to work on rebounding in crowds. We have to work on finishing in a crowd. We had several layups we missed in the first half. We didn’t have very many good performances. I have to coach better. We have to play better,” Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall said.

The Shockers will attempt to regain their footing in upcoming home games against UCF and Tulsa.

On the other hand, Houston’s win over Wichita State was huge for the Cougars. As a team on the bubble, wins against ranked teams are imperative. If they keep this up, they’ll force their way into the AP Top 25. They currently sit along with Wichita State at 15-4 (5-2 in The AMerican). Their next game will be at home against USF before going on the road to Cincinnati.

Speaking of Cincinnati, the Bearcats have sustained their domination over the American with unsurprising wins over UCF and East Carolina. They remain undefeated in the AAC. They’ve won 10 straight games since their losses to Xavier and Florida, and nine of them have been by double digits.

Jacob Evans, Kyle Washington, Gary Clark and Jarron Cumberland have been great all year, and each is averaging over 10 points this season. Against East Carolina on Saturday, Evans and Washington each had 17 points on seven of 12 shooting. Clark had 14 points and 14 rebounds, while Cumberland had 14. The Bearcats will play at home against Temple next.

Thanks to some late game heroics by junior guard B.J. Taylor, UCF improved to 13-6 (4-3 The American) with a two point win over USF. Taylor had 25 points, 11 of which came in the final six minutes of the game. This was Taylor’s second game back from a foot injury that had kept him sidelined since the first game of the season. Stephan Jiggetts scored 21 points for USF.


Sean Janos is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at sean.janos@uconn.edu.