AAC Tournament: UConn defeats South Florida; SMU over Tulsa

Wichita State also wins, joining Memphis moving to Friday's quarterfinals

By Updated: March 14, 2019 11:44 PM CT | Published: March 14, 2019 3:41 PM CT


Markis McDuffie scored 15 points, including going 11 of 12 from the free throw line, Jaime Echenique had 14 points and nine rebounds to lead sixth-seed Wichita State to an easy 75-57 victory in the final game of Thursday’s opening round of the American Athletic Conference Tourney.

Dexter Dennis finished with 13 points for the Shockers (17-13), who won their fifth straight and 10 in the last 12. Wichita State moves on to face third-seed Temple, on Friday. The Owls had a first-round bye.

Jayden Gardner led the Pirates (10-21) with 16 points, making 6 of 9 shots, while Shawn Williams finished with 14 points. Isaac Fleming scored 12 points, but was 3 of 10 from the field and missed both of his 3-point attempts. Fleming did have seven assists.

Williams was 2 of 8 from outside the arc.

Neither team shot well in the game – East Carolina making 39 percent of its shots, while Wichita State made 38 percent for the game.

Wichita State was in control almost from the start. East Carolina led for only 41 seconds in the game, and then only by two points.

In the second half, the Shockers would take the lead to 27 with just more than seven minutes left and were never threatened down the stretch.

Wichita State led 39-27 at halftime.

The loss was East Carolina’s fifth in a row and 10 in the final 11 games. The Pirates only win down the stretch was 85-81 at Tulane, which was winless in the conference this season.

(10) SMU 74, (7) TULSA 65

Jahmal McMurray had 27 points, Ethan Chargois added 12 as SMU moved to the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference tournament with a 74-65 victory over Tulsa on Thursday night.

McMurray connected on 7 of 14 shots, including 4 of 9 from outside the arc as the Mustangs earned a Friday night game against second-seed and 24th-ranked Cincinnati.

Jeriah Horne led the Golden Hurricane with 19 points, but was 8 of 18 from the field, including 3 of 9 from 3-point range. Daquan Jeffries finished with 15 points and six assists.

Tulsa (18-14) struggled from the field, shooting 36.4 percent, but no stretch was more frustrating than the opening of the second half.

Tulsa, which trailed 47-33 at halftime, missed its first 13 shots of the second half. The Golden Hurricane didn’t connect from the field until almost eight minutes had passed in the second half when Horne connected on a 3-pointer.

"(The) second half, as you know, defensively, could not script that any better," SMU coach Tim Jankovich said. "I don't know how many minutes it went without a field goal that they did. So, we solidified our defense."

SMU (15-16), the tournament’s 10th seed, wasn’t doing much better, going 2 of 13 over the same span, but that was enough to stretch the Mustang lead to 20 points.

"I thought we were a little sloppy," Jankovich said. "I think we missed two dunks and a layup early to stretch it, which maybe could have put it out of hand."

The Mustangs would still hold a 53-36 lead with just less than 13 minutes remaining.

"During that stretch there, I think we went seven minutes without scoring, and I think we missed the first 10 3s of the second half," Tulsa coach Frank Haith said of the run where the Golden Hurricane consistently missed shots at the start of the second half. "I thought we were pressing."

That began to dwindle away as Tulsa shot better and put together nine straight points, while converting 6 of 8 shots. While SMU would make a few shots, eventually Tulsa was within 66-60 when Horne connected on a 3-pointer with 2:41 remaining.

SMU would connect on 5 of 7 shots during one stretch of the closing minutes to prevent Tulsa from getting any closer.

SMU’s 47-33 lead was built on 10 points from Chargois and 13 from McMurray.

With a short bench coupled with a short turnaround, there's 20 hours between the SMU win and facing Cincinnati in the first game of Friday's evening session.

"We're not going to be tired at all," Jakovich said. "No one is tired. We will be less tired (Friday) than we were (Thursday). We have made that decision."

-- Clay Bailey

(9) UCONN 80, (8) SOUTH FLORIDA 73

Christian Vital 25 points as UConn used accurate shooting to build a double-digit lead and then hold on for an 80-73 victory over South Florida in the opening round of the American Athletic Conference Tournament on Thursday afternoon.

Jalen Adams added 19 points and six rebounds for UConn (16-16), which moves on to Friday’s quarterfinal game with top-seeded and No. 11 Houston.

Laquincy Rideau led the Bulls (19-13) with 19 points, while David Collins finished with 15 points as USF lost its seventh in the last nine.

UConn’s shooting was so accurate, it was still at 70.4 percent (19 of 27) with 15 minutes left in the game, including 10 of 16 from outside the arc. And Adams missed six of the eight shots where the Huskies misfired.

What seemed like an insurmountable UConn lead in the second half was jeopardized a bit down the stretch as the Bulls scored eight straight points to pull within 70-63 with two minutes left. Over that span, the Huskies made only one of 10 shots, allowing the Bulls to threaten the UConn lead.

USF eventually would pull within 73-68 on a 3-pointer from Collins with 34.4 seconds left, but the Bulls could get no closer.

The Huskies, who endured a six-game losing streak in February, have now won three of four.

UConn used 11 straight points, making five consecutive shots in the first half to build an 11-point lead. At that point, the Huskies were 11 of 15 from the field, shooting 73 percent. Even after South Florida stopped the consecutive string, UConn continued to connect.

The lead would swell to 18 points near the five-minute mark of the first half, and the UConn shooting percentage was just under 77 percent. That included the Huskies making 9 of 11 from outside the arc in the game’s first 16 minutes.

Smith and Vital both had made all four of their first shots to help with the UConn shooting percentage. Vital’s field goals came from outside the arc.

That helped the Huskies carry a 39-26 lead into the break.

Big picture

UConn: The Huskies' shooting percentage was such that they made two-thirds of their shots in the first half, and that was only slightly better that their 3-point shooting, which was 64.3 percent at the break (9 of 14). The Huskies couldn’t maintain that percentage down the stretch as UConn made its comeback.

USF: The Bulls woes at the end of the season continued in the first half as UConn blew the game open. It was more than a matter of USF not able to keep pace with the opponent’s shooting accuracy, but also stymied by going 3 of 10 from outside the arc in the first half. The double-digit deficit was just too much for the Bulls to overcome as they made their run in the closing minutes.

Up next

UConn: Moves on to the quarterfinals to face top-seeded and No. 11 Houston on Friday

South Florida: Leaves the tournament with a 19-13 record and waits to see if there is a postseason opportunity in the NIT.


Uconn Huskies South Florida American Athletic Conference Tulsa Golden Hurricane

Comment On This Story

Section Emails

Sign up to get the latest articles from the Sports;Memphis Tigers section.