AAC Tournament: Thursday Recap/Friday previewPosted by Ross Schulz on March 14th, 2014
With the quarterfinals of the AAC Tournament in the books, we take a look at a few of the big takeaways from Thursday, as well as storylines to keep in mind on Friday.
What went down on Thursday
- Thursday marked the only day of all-day action at the AAC Tournament, and the anticipation reached a fever pitch for the final match-up with the hometown team, Memphis, against Connecticut, the only game featuring two ranked teams. It did not live up to the hype. Memphis was thoroughly outplayed to the point of embarrassment while falling behind by as much as 25 before losing, 72-53. Connecticut won all three games against Memphis this season and the Tigers’ faithful, which began filing out of FedEx Forum with five minutes to play, has to hope the loss will serve as a wake-up call heading into the NCAA Tournament.
- Houston opened Thursday’s play with an impressive upset of SMU. While the focus will be on the sliding Mustangs, who have now lost three straight games heading into NCAA Tournament, credit should be given to Houston and its offensive production against the stingy SMU defense in its 68-64 win. Jherrod Stiggers poured in five three-pointers and 19 points; L.J. Rose buried three treys in route to 16 points; and big man TaShawn Thomas had 14 points, nine rebounds and four blocks. The Cougars got it done on the defensive end as well, with Thomas coming up with a key block down the stretch to keep SMU from tying the game.
- The top-seeded Cincinnati Bearcats looked nothing like the team that rolled to a 15-3 regular season record for much of its quarterfinal game with Central Florida. Led by senior Isiah Sykes, UCF played right with Mick Cronin’s group until the very end, before the Bearcats pulled out a 61-58 win fueled by a huge, timely three-pointer from Kevin Johnson. Cronin said there wasn’t much to be proud of with the effort and at halftime he questioned whether his team even wanted to be there. The Knights’ effort, especially coming off of a double-overtime win the night before, should not be overlooked.
- The other quarterfinal saw Louisville utterly destroy Rutgers by 61, the most in any conference tournament game since 1993. Louisville is clicking on all cylinders, especially defensively, while Rutgers basically gave up after holding an early 8-7 lead. Not much else can be said about this game.
What’s on tap for Friday
Semifinal Friday definitely lost a little luster with the home team unable to advance, and another ranked member, SMU, falling in the quarterfinals. But, at least one game, Cincinnati vs. Connecticut (9;00 PM) should be highly competitive. Connecticut had a great bounce-back win last night behind Niels Giffey’s 24 points, including six threes. Cincinnati will no doubt have to bring a better all-around effort than it did a day ago if the Bearcats hope to play for the AAC crown on Saturday night. In the first semifinal, it will be a matter of if Houston can handle Louisville’s defensive pressure and put up enough points to keep it close. Louisville is one of the hottest teams in the country and it would be a shock not to see the Cardinals advance to the championship game.