Fort Worth, Texas- The American Athletic conference continued display some top performances here in the second round of the AAC conference tournament here at Dickies Arena. So, let's take a look at some action that happened this afternoon within the American Athletic Conference. Let's take a look at the first match up of the day that featured East Carolina vs #1 Houston.
The Cougars got off to a slow start this afternoon, taking a 23-21 lead at the half, despite shooting just 26% from the field in the first 20 minutes of action. This is something we weren't using to seeing for top seeded Houston and man was East Carolina hanging right there with the Cougars to start. East Carolina just dominated the glass early it seemed which played a huge factor in the first half. Houston was struggling to get anything going offensively before Marcus Sasser popped off for 24 second half points, as he finished with 30 points on 9-15 shooting in the Cougars 60-46 victory over East Carolina. Pirates Freshman Ezra Ausar finished with an incredible 18 points and 19 rebounds and willed the Pirates this afternoon and really made a name for himself vs the top seeded Cougars. Ausar finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds in the first half, the first time I think all year where someone has just bullied the Cougars on both ends and had that type of night.
Now let's get to the second game of the day where the Cincinnati Bearcats took on the Temple Owls, a game in which the Owls jumped out to an early 16-6 lead. A 10-point lead that was quickly erased after an early 7-0 run by Dan Skillings Jr, willed the Bearcats to single digits. However, it was all Bearcats after that as the Bearcats outscored 19-4 to take a huge 10-point lead in the Half. However, the Bearcats just turned the burners up a notch in the second half, outscoring the Owls 47-27. The Bearcats would hold Damian Dunn to just 12 points despite going for 34 the last time these two teams faced each other. The Bearcats were led by Dan Skillings who finished with a career high 20 points on 8-14 shooting. Mika Adams-Woods had arguably his best game of the season finishing with 20 points on 7-11 shooting, while dishing out five assists along the way. We can't forget Landers Nolley who had a game his 22 points and took over in the second half. Viktor Lakhin tied an AAC tournament record with his seven blocks on the defensive end, as his rim presence made a huge difference in this one this afternoon.
In game 2 of the day the Memphis Tigers took down UCF in a game that came down to the very end. Knights guard CJ Kelly had a huge game as he finished with 28 points on 9-12 shooting. 19 of those points came in the second half after the Knights trailed by 10 at the break. However, Kendric Davis and Deandre Williams took over as they combined for 68 of the Tigers 81 points this evening and man did, they show why they were one of the top duos in all of college basketball in the process. Williams finished with 35 points and 13 rebounds, while shooting 14-23 from the field, while Davis went for 33 on 10-16 from the field, while dishing out 7 assists along the way. A dynamic performance by the Tigers senior duo in a feat that had Penny Hardaway thinking of when the last time such feat was accomplished and said he thought it was back to the Derrick Rose era at Memphis but wasn't 100% sure postgame. The Knights just simply had no answer for Deandre Williams and Kendric Davis, as the Tigers were looking to build steam heading into their highly awaited rematch vs Tulane tomorrow. The Tigers were 0-2 vs Ron Hunter and Tulane during the regular season, but a win would put Memphis back in the AAC Championship game for the second straight season. However, Penny Hardaway is looking to make the NCAA Tournament for just the second time as head coach of the Memphis Tigers, so he knows what is at stake ahead of this contest with Tulane.
In the final game of the night Ron Hunter and Tulane took down Wichita State in a hard fought 82-76 victory. A game where Kevin Cross came out and started 5-7 from the field with 15 points in the first half. Kevin Cross finished the game with 24 points and 13 rebounds as the Green Wave set themselves up for a third match up with Memphis later this afternoon. A game that Wichita State could have easily won, but couldn't convert on the offensive end, falling short to the Green Wave this evening. The Green Wave got another huge night from Jaylyn Forbes who finished with 19 points and 7 rebounds, but the Green Wave was just too rough for the Shockers this evening.
Wichita State guard Craig Porter continued too how why he was one of the top guards within the American Athletic Conference as he finished with 22 points, 11 assists and 6 rebounds for the Shockers in their loss to Tulane this afternoon. Porter's vision and feel for the game is incredible, he can impact the games in many ways, and we saw it tonight. 14 of Porters 22 points came in the second half, as he tried to carry the Shockers on his back but ultimate the Green Wave stung the Shockers to advance to the AAC Semifinals vs Memphis. Porter gained a lot of praise from Tulane Head Coach Ron Hunter following the game, saying “There are 3-4 really special guards in the AAC and Craig Porter is one of them, " said Ron Hunter. "He makes Wichita State go; I’m going to send him a graduation gift, so I don’t have to see him again. He’s a really special player,”
Overall, the American was filled with some really great games this afternoon, but let's turn the page to tomorrow as the AAC Semifinals kick underway. The first game of the day will feature the Cincinnati Bearcats as they take on top seeded Houston at 3pm, followed by Penny Hardway and Memphis vs Tulane at 5:30 pm. A very good slate of games ahead of us here at Dickies Arena that should draw a lot of attention heading into the weekend. Can Houston hold on and remain the number one overall seed heading into the big dance? We will find out later this afternoon here at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas.