Around the American: Houston, Tulsa pick up conference wins

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Dramatic finishes and close games have been the story of The American so far this year. With the conference tournament less than three weeks away, however, teams will want to avoid close-calls and slip ups to perform at their best.  

Wednesday saw No. 20 Houston defeat the USF Bulls 62-58, improving to 20-6 overall and 4-3 in the conference. Guard Quentin Grimes was an essential contributor to the Cougar offense, putting up 22 points alongside five assists and six rebounds. Moreover, forward Fabian White, Jr. ‘s 10 points and five rebounds only added onto an already battered Bull team. Guard Laquincy Rideau would lead his team in scoring in the losing effort with 21 points. Conference leaders Houston will look to continue to build momentum against Tulsa on Wednesday, with hopes of securing their place in the tournament.  

The Huskies and Mustangs would also battle it out on Wednesday, with SMU prevailing 79-75. They were led by guards Kendric Davis and Emmanuel Bandoumel, who racked up 19 and 13 points, respectively. Forward Feron Hunt also had a big impact, putting up 23 points and grabbing seven boards. Despite UConn’s losing effort, they can lean on the performance and emergence of guard James Bouknight, who led the team in scoring with 21 and has been crucial to Dan Hurley’s offense. UConn’s chances of making the tournament were already slim going into the contest. If they want to have any shot, they will now have to win the rest of their remaining games.   

Tulsa defeated East Carolina 70-56 in Wednesday’s final contest. Forwards Martins Igbanu led the Golden Hurricane in scoring with 24 points off the bench, alongside 10 rebounds. Guard Darein Jackson also had a strong impact on both sides of the court, picking up 11 points and five steals. Tulsa now sits at No. 3, half of a game behind Cincinnati. 

UCF was unable to avoid the shocker sting, falling to Wichita State 75-58 on Thursday. The difference maker for Wichita would be guard Erik Stevenson’s 27 points off the bench. Guard Dexter Dennis also had a positive all-around contribution with five assists and nine rebounds. Guard Matt Milon and forward Collin Smith’s 13 points and 12 rebounds were to no avail.  

Cincinnati was able to claw itself  out of a close contest against the Memphis Tigers to get the 92-86 victory and hold onto second place in  the conference. Forward Tre Scott led the team in points with 25 and an astounding 19 rebounds. Guard Jarron Cumberland’s 15 points and nine assists, alongside guard Mika Adams-Wood’s 14 points, only increased the Tiger onslaught. Despite the loss, forward Precious Achiuwa was still able to put up 22 points and grab 17 boards. Guards Lester Quinones and Boogie Ellis had 18 and 19, respectively, as well. The Bearcats will look to stay behind the Cougars, while Memphis will focus on bouncing back. 

The pressure only mounted on No. 20 Houston with SMU pulling off the upset 73-72 win on Saturday. Guards Tyson Jolly and Davis showed up against the Cougars, with 20 and 10 points, respectively. Forward’s Isiaha Mike and Feron Hunt’s contributions only furthered the trail towards victory, putting up a respective 15 points, with Hunt’s coming  off the bench. Guard Marcus Sasser had 26 points to keep the game close for the Cougars, along with guard Dejon Jarreau’s 15-point contribution off the bench. Houston now hopes to avoid any further slip-ups to ensure they go into The American tournament as the No. 1 seed. The Mustangs sit at No. 4 and will look to continue this form to go into the tournament with momentum.  

Saturday also saw Tulsa defeat USF 56-48. Guard Brandon Rachal led the Golden Hurricane in points with 18 as well as six boards. Bulls Guards David Collins and Laquincy Rideau’s 14- and 10-point performances were not enough to secure the victory. Tulsa now sits at 17-8 overall and 9-3 in the conference, while USF falls to 11-14 overall, and 4-8 in the conference.  

Sunday saw UConn prevail over Memphis 64-61. Forward Isaiah Whaley took the place of the injured Akok Akok, having an enormous contribution on both sides of the court, with six blocks and seven boards alongside five points. Guards Christian Vital and James Bouknight thrived throughout the match, putting up 23 and 17 points, respectively. Center Josh Carlton also had a big impact on the boards for the Huskies, grabbing 13. Forward Precious Achiuwa had 16 points and 13 rebounds, alongside guard Tyler Harris’s 16-point performance off the bench. The journey gets that much harder for UConn, which now has to continue without one of their most influential players, Akok Akok. 

No. 15 Villanova defeated the Temple Owls 76-56 on Sunday. The Wildcats, who sit at No. 3 in the Big East, relied on guard Collin Gillespie for most of the team’s points, putting up 29 alongside five assists. Forwards Jermaine Samuels and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl also put up 13 and 10, respectively. Guard Quinton Rose had a 22-point performance in the losing effort, with fellow guard Nate Pierre-Louis putting up 16 points and grabbing 10 boards. The Owls now move to 13-12 overall, and 5-7 in the conference. Villanova stands at 19-6 overall and 8-4 in the Big East.  

Sunday also saw Wichita State and Cincinnati build on their performances on Thursday to beat Tulane and East Carolina, respectively. The Shockers beat Tulane 82-57 behind guard Dennis’s 21 points and nine rebounds, including guard Tyson Etienne’s 20-point performance. All of the Bearcats starting five had double digit points in their 70-67 win over the Pirates, with guard Keith Williams and forward Tre Scott’s 17 and 14 points, respectively.  

The American returns to action on Wednesday, with No. 22 Houston battling it out against a gritty Tulsa squad. SMU faces Tulane, while Cincinnati battles it out against the UCF Knights. Finally, Memphis looks to bounce back against the Pirates. Moreover, UConn will look to continue their winning ways on Thursday as it takes on Temple in Philadelphia.  


Sebastian Garay-Ortega is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached at sebastian.garay-ortega@uconn.edu. He tweets @sebastian__305.

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