The American continued its trend of providing competitive end-to-end basketball with another week of close matches that left fans at the edge of their seats.
No. 25 Houston trashed Tulsa on Wednesday 76-43 behind the efforts of guard Caleb Mills, who was able to come off the bench and put up 27 points, the highest of any Cougar player. Guard Nate Hinton led the starting five in points with 15. Despite forward Martins Igbanu’s bench play being a staple of the Golden Hurricane’s season, it did not prove to be enough. His 15 points fell in vain as Houston was able to overwhelm Tulsa offensively and defensively. Tulsa fell to 18-9 overall and 10-4 in the conference, sitting third behind Cincinnati.
Wednesday also saw a double-overtime thriller in which UCF triumphed over Cincinnati 89-87. The Knights were led towards victory through guards Brandon Mahon and Tony Johnson Jr. coming off the bench and putting up 20 and 21 points respectively. Forward Collin Smith led the starting five in points with 17, alongside six rebounds and five assists. Forward Tre Scott was still able to put up a double-double for the Bearcats despite the loss, finishing the game with 22 points and 21 rebounds. With the loss, Cincinnati stands second behind No. 25 Houston at 18-9 overall and 11-4 in the conference. UCF improved to 14-12 and 5-9 in conference play, holding on to the ninth spot in the conference.
The last two contests that took place Wednesday saw Memphis defeat East Carolina 77-73 and Tulane upset SMU 80-72. Forward Precious Achiuwa secured a double-double to lead the Tigers to victory, putting up 24 points and 12 rebounds. Guard Boogie Ellis also contributed in the points department for Memphis with 17. The Mustangs were halted by the Green Wave of Tulane through guard Teshaun Hightower’s 26 points and nine rebounds. Guards K.J. Lawson, Christion Thompson and Jordan Walker all had double digits in the points department as well, finishing with 14, 19 and 11, respectively. SMU now falls to 18-8 overall and 8-6 in The American, while Tulane sits last at 12-15 overall and 4-11 in conference play.
Thursday saw Wichita State continue its winning ways against USF, beating the Bulls 65-55. Center Jaime Echenique put up 20 points and nine rebounds and also had a large presence on defense with four blocks. Guards Tyson Etienne and Jamarius Burton put up a respective 12 and 10 points, with Etienne’s coming off the bench. The Shockers would end up losing to Cincinnati on Sunday, falling to the Bearcats 67-64. Guard Jarron Cumberland put up an impressive 24 points, five rebounds and four assists. With the loss, Wichita State fell to 20-7 overall and 8-6 in the conference, placing them at fourth, with the Bulls now standing second to last at 11-16 overall and 4-10 in the conference.
Saturday had a slew of marquee matchups, with the most considerable one involving No. 22 Houston and Memphis that ultimately ended with the Tigers slaying the Cougars 60-59. Precious Achiuwa put up 10 points and six rebounds, carrying less of a load thanks to guard Lester Quinones’s 10 points and three rebounds, along with help from center Malcolm Dandridge and guard Tyler Harris, coming off the bench and putting up a respective 12 and 10 points. Houston’s leading point scorer came off the bench in the form of guard Caleb Mills, finishing the game with 21 points. Guard Marcus Sasser also had a positive impact both offensively and defensively, finishing with 18 points, six rebounds and six steals. Memphis improved to 19-8 overall and 8-6 in The American. Despite the loss, Houston still sits first at 21-7 overall and 11-4 in conference play.
Tulane pulled off another impressive win on Saturday, beating UCF by a slim margin of 75-74. They were once again led by the efforts of Lawson, Thompson and Hightower, putting up 21, 15 and 18 points, respectively. The Knights had positive performances from the likes of guards Johnson and Green Jr., alongside Smith, putting up a combined 46 points. In the end, however, it was not enough to overcome the Green Wave.
Tulsa was able to bounce back while the misery ensued for the Mustangs of SMU, with the Golden Hurricane triumphing 79-57. Not surprisingly, Igabnu once again led the team in the points department off the bench with 23 alongside nine rebounds. Guards Lawson Korita and Darien Jackson had 14 and 12 points respectively to pull off the upset. Jolly led SMU in points with 18.
Sunday wrapped up AAC action, with Cincinnati defeating Wichita State 67-64 and East Carolina edging out Temple 67-63. Echenique had a solid performance for the Shockers, putting up a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Guards Jamarius Burton and Erik Stevenson put up 11 and 13 points as well. These performances would be overshadowed by guard Jarron Cumberland’s 24 point, five rebound and four assist performance, leading the Bearcats to victory. On the other hand, the Owls were not able to bring the momentum garnered from their victory over the Huskies to Carolina, overcome by the performance of forward Jayden Gardener’s double-double, finishing with 29 points and 12 rebounds. The Pirates now sit 10th at 11-16 overall and 4-10 in the conference, with Temple now standing at 14-13 overall and 6-8 in the conference.
The American is set to return Tuesday, with Memphis taking on SMU and Tulane battling Tulsa. The rest of the week will see East Carolina take on USF and UConn host UCF on Wednesday, with Temple facing Wichita State on Thursday.
Thumbnail Photo courtesy of Albert Cesare/AP