In just four short days at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, CT, 11 American Athletic Conference games were played to determine the league’s top dog. And while UConn ultimately won the tournament over USF, 66-45, there was still plenty of action to talk about, including a first round overtime finish and a semifinal battle between two of the conference’s premier schools.
Friday’s slate of games featured the likes of Tulane and USF, ECU and SMU, Tulsa and Wichita State, and Memphis and Temple. USF secured a nine-point win over Tulane, while Tulsa handed the Shockers an 11-point, first-round exit. Memphis escaped its matchup with Temple with a margin of victory of just a single point. ECU and SMU, however, would need more than just four quarters to decide who’d take on the Huskies.
In the third-consecutive conference tournament matchup between the ECU Pirates and the SMU Mustangs, regulation was not enough. It was just the second game in AAC tournament history that needed an overtime, and ECU came out the victor. SMU trailed most of the afternoon, not taking a lead until Johnasia Cash hit a jumper to put the Mustangs ahead for the first time. The lead wouldn’t last, after Lashonda Monk and Salita Greene each scored a layup to seal the deal. Monk and Greene combined for 20 points on the afternoon, and were joined by Alex Frazier (12 points) and Raven Johnson (12) as the only ECU players to hit double digits.
ECU would not last much longer in the tournament, after taking a 92-65 quarter final loss to UConn.
The conference’s top teams, UConn and UCF, got to take the floor on day two of the tournament. UConn handled ECU with ease, as UCF won by 12 over Tulsa. Cincinnati, the tournament’s third seed, won by 20 over Memphis, while USF and Houston battled it out, with the winner advancing to play UConn.
Sydni Harvey and Enna Pehadzic led USF to its sixth-straight semifinals after defeating Houston 72-55. Harvey and Pehadzic combined for 36 points and propelled a second half comeback, after going into halftime down by a point. USF shot over 60 percent from the field in the second half and opened up the fourth quarter with six quick points before Houston could find the bottom of the basket. The Bulls had a 40-27 rebounding advantage on the game. USF went 5-of-8 from the field in the fourth quarter to close the game out.
USF had a similar fate to ECU: a loss to the Huskies before they could reach the championship game.
UConn handed the USF Bulls a 81-45 semifinals exit, while the two and three seeds fought for the chance to dethrone the perennial conference champs.
UCF’s defense stifled the tremendous Cincinnati offense, holding the Bearcats to just 58 points on 39 percent shooting compared to their usual 67.3 ppg with a 58 percent field goal percentage. Kay Kay Wright led the Knights with 21 points, while Masseny Kaba added 13 from the bench. UCF’s reserves accounted for 27 points on 6-of-8 shooting. The Bearcats saw their historic, first 20-win season come to an end as the Knights came out on top, 66-58.
UCF punched their ticket to face the No. 1 seeded UConn Huskies.
The UConn Huskies captured their sixth-consecutive conference title over UCF Monday night, but you already knew that. Geno Auriemma’s group has never lost a conference matchup in any capacity since joining the American, going a perfect 120-0. Napheesa Collier earned MVP honors for her play throughout the tournament.
Kevin Arnold is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.