EditorsNote: Updated to add Memphis as next opponent
Kyle Washington finished with 15 points and seven rebounds and eighth-ranked Cincinnati held off ninth-seeded Southern Methodist 61-51 in the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference Championship on Friday afternoon in Orlando, Fla.
Cane Broome added 13 points and Gary Clark had a double-double with 12 points and 11 boards for top-seeded Cincinnati (28-4), which advances to face fifth-seeded Memphis in the semifinals on Saturday after the Tigers got past Tulsa 67-64 later Friday afternoon on a Kareem Brewton Jr. 3-pointer in the game’s waning seconds.
Jahmal McMurray had a game-high 17 points and Ben Emelogu scored 11 with seven rebounds for SMU (17-16). The Mustangs earned an 80-73 victory against eighth-seeded Connecticut in its AAC tourney opener on Thursday to set up a showdown with the Bearcats.
Cincinnati claimed the regular-season AAC championship after going 16-2 in conference play to earn a first-round bye in Orlando. The Bearcats won their final four regular-season games, including a 62-61 decision against then-No. 11 Wichita State on Mar. 4 to claim the title.
Despite winning 10 of its first 13 games, SMU stumbled to a 6-12 mark during the conference portion of the schedule and dropped eight of their final nine games.
SMU struggled from 3-point range in Friday’s contest, making just five of its 21 attempts (23.8 percent). Meanwhile, Cincinnati also struggled from long range (2 for 14, 14.3 percent) — but the Bearcats got to the free-throw line 19 times and made 11 compared to two trips and two makes for the Mustangs.
The Bearcats took both of their regular-season meetings with the Mustangs, earning a 76-56 home victory against SMU on Jan. 7 and a 76-51 win on the road on Feb. 11.
Cincinnati clung to a 28-27 lead at halftime after Emelogu’s layup with four seconds remaining in the opening half brought SMU within a point. The Bearcats led by as many as six over the first 20 minutes.
An Elijah Landrum layup with 15:28 remaining had the Mustangs ahead 38-32, but the Bearcats pulled into a tie at 38 with 13:06 to play and proceeded to build a double-digit lead as big as 12 in the closing minutes to seal the win.
—Field Level Media