Around the American: No. 13 Cougars, No. 25 Bearcats lead the way through conference play

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Temple guard Nate Pierre-Louis (15) and Houston guard Galen Robinson Jr. (25) battle for the ball as Houston forward Breaon Brady (24) looks on during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

Not a fan of dogs? Well the American Athletic Conference has a few cats to choose from, and they’re pretty good at basketball. At the halfway point of conference play, the Houston Cougars and Cincinnati Bearcats sit atop the conference with eight wins and one loss apiece. After a 24-point win for UConn over ECU, let’s take a look at how the other teams in the American fared after another week of conference action.

Houston 73, Temple 66

A seven-point home win over the Temple Owls boosted Houston up a spot to the 12th ranked team in the country. Already first in the conference, Houston improved to 21-1 on the year and 8-1 in the conference, while the fourth place Owls fall to 16-6 and 6-3 against American opponents.

Houston’s one loss thus far was a four-point defeat by the Temple Owls, making the Thursday night matchup a revenge game of sorts. Corey Davis Jr. dropped 24 points and DeJon Jarreau added 14 points and 12 boards of his own to secure the Cougar’s 31st-straight home victory.

Houston had a 10-point lead with just two minutes to play. The Owls, lead by Quinton Rose’s 26 points, cut the lead in half thanks in part to a pair of free throws from Nate Pierre-Louis. Davis would go on to hit 6 straight free throws in the game’s final minute to secure the win.

Next up, Houston travels to Orlando for a Thursday night matchup with UCF while Temple hosts UConn on Wednesday. Both games have tip-offs set for 6 p.m.

Cincinnati 73, SMU 68

For the first time all season, the Cincinnati Bearcats have broken into the AP Top 25. Though at the bottom of the list, the No. 25 Bearcats sit second in the American with a 19-3 overall record (8-1 The American). Saturday’s win over SMU marked Cincy’s seventh-straight win, but the Mustangs made them earn it.

The Bearcats’ Jarron Cumberland (24) and SMU’s Jahmal McMurray (21) combined for 43 points and 10 made three-pointers in the five-point Cincy win. Cumberland added nine boards and five assists but turned the ball over five times, helping keep SMU in contention. Poor defense and a 43.3 percent shooting mark gave the Mustangs life.

With a Bearcat halftime lead of only seven, the Mustangs tied the game at 60 with just over six minutes to go. A Cumberland three-pointer with 3:48 to go made 67-63 but SMU was not done yet. Cincinnati center Nysier Brooks made a layup with 42 seconds left to extend the lead to four. SMU missed their attempt to tie, then proceeded to foul. Keith Williams hit one of his two free throws, leaving the door open for the Mustangs to tie it. McMurray came down the court and launched a three that never hit rim, ending the comeback attempt.

Cincinnati will next head over to Memphis for a Thursday night game at 7 p.m. SMU hosts USF, also on Thursday, with a 9 p.m. scheduled tip-off.

USF 84, Memphis 78

It was a battle for fifth place in The American when USF and Memphis squared off over the weekend. Winning 27-1 at one point, USF (15-6, 5-4 The American) saw their lead slip away thanks to a game-high 41 points from Memphis’ Jeremiah Martin. Memphis also sits at 5-4 in conference play with an overall record of 13-9.

Shooting 50 percent from the field in the first half (as well as the second half), the Bulls built a 38-13 lead heading into the intermission while holding their opponent to just four made shots. The lead remained double digits until the Tigers’ Tyler Harris hit a three to make it 69-60. Memphis trimmed the lead to just six points, two different times, but a final Memphis turnover secured a third straight win for the Bulls.

Justin Brown had a career game for USF. The freshman’s 19 points were a career-high for a single game as he made five three-pointers in the game’s first five minutes. David Collins, Brown’s classmate, put on a show of his own with 20 points, five rebounds and a pair of steals. Laquincy Rideau tied the single-season steals record (68) for USF with his two steals on Saturday. He added 15 points as well.

USF will face off against SMU on the road Thursday at 9 p.m. while Memphis hosts Cincy Thursday at 7 p.m.


Kevin Arnold is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at kevin.arnold@uconn.edu.

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