The action is heating up in American Conference men’s basketball play as the season has reached the final month of conference games. Each team in the conference was in action over the weekend.
On Saturday, Tulsa beat Temple 76-58 and Wichita State topped Tulane 77-62 as each team defended its home court.
Sterling Taplin led five Tulsa players in double figures with a game-high 14 points as the Hurricane (14-10, 4-7 The American) dominated Temple inside, including a 40-8 advantage in paint points. Temple guard Shizz Alston Jr. scored a team-high 13 points, but the Owls (17-7, 7-4 The American) trailed by double-digits for the majority of the game.
In Wichita, senior Markus McDuffie dropped 25 points to lead the Shockers to their fourth-straight win as they cruised by last-place Tulane. Wichita State (12-11, 5-6 The American) hounded the Green Wave on defense, forcing 17 turnovers (including eight steals) which they turned into 15 points. McDuffie, the conference’s leading scorer, scored 18 points and drilled three triples in the first half before the Shockers made a 9-0 run early in the second half to build a 15-point lead that was never threatened. Tulane remains winless (0-10) in conference play.
Sunday’s games were headlined by a battle for first place between No. 9 Houston and Cincinnati. Dejon Jarreau scored 11 straight points for Houston down the stretch in the second half and the Cougars stifling defense held Cincinnati scoreless over the final 6:11 of the game to pull out a 65-58 victory in a tight, back-and-forth battle at home. Jarreau recorded 16 points, eight rebounds and five assists while Corey Davis Jr. also added 16 for the Cougars (23-1, 10-1 The American), who held on to the top spot in the conference while winning their eight-consecutive game. Jarron Cumberland scored a game-high 27 points to lead the Bearcats (20-4, 9-2 The American).
Memphis held off a strong second-half rally from injury-depleted UConn and earned a 78-71 win over UConn at home. Kyvon Davenport led four Tigers (14-10, 6-5 The American) in double-figures with 26 points, who led 46-30 early in the second half before UConn was able to make a run. Without injured starting guards Jalen Adams (knee) and Alterique Gilbert (shoulder), the Huskies (13-11, 4-7 The American) used big lineups and were able to fight their way back into the game by out-rebounding Memphis 24-8 in the second-half. Forwards Tyler Polley (20 points, 4-7 from three) and Sid Wilson (16 points) stepped-up for UConn, but the Tigers were able to hold on down the stretch.
UCF kept its third-place standing in the conference as they traveled to Dallas and knocked off SMU 71-65 on the road. Aubrey Dawkins scored a season-high 26 points and Collin Smith added 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Knights (17-5, 7-3 the American), who shot 52 percent from the floor. Jimmy Whitt Jr. recorded a career-high 23 points for SMU, but the Mustangs (12-11, 4-7 The American) fell behind 16-8 early and weren’t able to rally as they dropped their fourth-straight game.
USF made 16 free throws in the final six minutes of regulation and overtime to grind out a 72-68 win at home over ECU. Playing without star freshman Alexis Yetna, the Bulls (17-6, 7-4 The American) got 21 points, nine rebounds and five assists from David Collins and a game-saving block at the buzzer from Mayan Kiir that sent the game to overtime. USF dominated the Pirates (9-14, 2-9 The American) on the glass with a 46-22 rebounding advantage on the way to their fifth-consecutive win. ECU made several runs in the second half to take late leads in the game, but shot just 2-8 from the floor in overtime as they dropped their third straight.
Story Salit is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus and can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.