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No. 14 SMU overwhelms Memphis 103-62 for outright AAC title

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DALLAS — Sterling Brown had 26 points and 10 rebounds in his final home game for No. 14 SMU, and the Mustangs clinched the outright American Athletic Conference title with a 103-62 victory over Memphis on Saturday.

Brown, one of three seniors playing their Moody Coliseum finale, was part of his school-record 106th victory as the Mustangs (27-4, 17-1) won their second conference title in three seasons.

Brown had a long inbounds pass to Semi Ojeleye for a breakaway one-handed dunk and hit consecutive 3-pointers in an early 15-2 run that put SMU in control of the game.

Ojeleye, coming off a 9-of-9 shooting game Thursday, made his first three shots on the way to 19 points while finishing 5 of 6 with three 3-pointers. Ben Moore, another senior, had 16 points.

Keon Clergeot had 14 points, while Dedric Lawson had 13 and Jeremiah Martin 12 for Memphis (19-12, 9-9), which trailed by as many as 48 points in the second half.

SMU takes a 13-game winning streak into next week’s AAC Tournament in Hartford, Connecticut as the top seed, and then back to the NCAA Tournament after being banned from all postseason play last season.

The Mustangs celebrated with confetti and streamers after the finale at Moody, where they won all 18 games this season and have won 22 in a row.

The crowd included former President George W. Bush, a frequent attender, along with Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle and Larry Brown, the Hall of Fame coach who led SMU’s impressive turnaround the past four seasons before unexpectedly leaving the job last summer when unable to come to terms on a new contract.

With two-time American Athletic Conference player of the year Nic Moore and AAC top sixth man Markus Kennedy, SMU won 25 games last season but couldn’t advance to the postseason again in their senior seasons because of NCAA penalties from a September 2015 ruling involving a case of academic fraud under Brown.

While the postseason ban was for only one year, the Mustangs are still short-handed because of scholarship reductions that extend past this season. They played several games this season with only six available scholarship players.

Jonathan Wilfong, a walk-on senior who started for only the second time in his 52 career games, had a nifty pass to Moore that broke the game’s only tie, which was 4-4. That was also the first of 10 consecutive SMU points in less than 2 1/2 minutes.

When Wilfong hit a jumper with just over 6 minutes left for his first points, the Mustangs led 87-44 and the crowd erupted.

BIG PICTURE

Memphis: The Tigers were off to an 18-7 start in their first season under Tubby Smith, but have lost five of their last six games.

SMU: While the Mustangs put up a lot of points, they are one of the nation’s top defensive teams — allowing only 59 points a game. They have held 22 of their last 24 opponents to 66 points or less. … SMU shot 61 percent (34 of 56), including 14 of 28 on 3-pointers.

UP NEXT

Memphis: Tigers wait until rest of AAC regular season games played Sunday to find out if they will be seeded fifth or better to avoid a first-round game in the tournament.

SMU: Quarterfinal game in the AAC tournament Friday against East Carolina or Temple.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

Milton scores 20 to help No. 15 SMU beat UConn

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Shake Milton had 20 points and seven rebounds to lead No. 15 SMU over UConn 69-61 on Saturday.

The Mustangs (25-4, 15-1 American Athletic Conference) won their 11th straight and haven’t lost since Jan. 12 at Cincinnati. Semi Ojeleye had 16 points, Ben Moore added 15 and Sterling Brown had 11.

The Huskies (14-14, 9-7), who have dropped two straight after a four-game winning streak, were led by Kentan Facey’s 15 points. Freshman Christian Vital and Vance Jackson each added 14, while Rodney Purvis had 11.

The Mustangs rode the hot shooting of Milton, who made 6 of 7 from 3-point range, to lead 41-30 at halftime. SMU led by as many as 16 points, with Milton’s fifth 3-pointer giving it a 31-15 lead with 8:04 to play.

Milton scored just two points in the Mustangs’ previous win, a 76-66 decision over Houston on Feb. 18.

SMU shot 50 percent from the field and led by double digits for almost the entire final 13:28 of the half. Vital’s 3-pointer with 34 seconds left made it 39-30, but Moore closed the half with a dunk.

The Mustangs survived some foul trouble in the half, with Ojeleye and Brown sitting for extended periods with two fouls apiece.

UConn shot just 11 for 32 in the half, with the starting backcourt of Purvis and Jalen Adams a combined 3 for 16. Adams missed the final 2:58 of the half with a left ankle sprain and did not return.

Without Adams, UConn tried climbed within 57-52 with 9:20 to play, but the Mustangs answered with a 9-2 run to regain control.

BIG PICTURE

SMU: The Mustangs and No. 15 Cincinnati are vying for the top seed in the AAC Tournament, but it will come down to the wire. The teams split in the regular season.

UConn: The Huskies are looking to lockup a top-five seed in the AAC Tournament, but could be in trouble if Adams is out for an extended period of time. Vital and Purvis are the only healthy guards left.

UP NEXT

SMU finishes the regular season at home with Tulsa and Memphis.

UConn closes at East Carolina and Cincinnati.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25.

UConn women win 100th consecutive game with double-digit victory over South Carolina

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The UConn women’s basketball team continued to make history on Monday night as the program won its 100th consecutive game on with a 66-55 home win over No. 6 South Carolina.

Using an 11-2 run to end the third quarter, the No. 1 Huskies had a double-double from junior Gabby Williams (26 points and 14 rebounds) while sophomore Napheesa Collier (18 points, nine rebounds) also had a strong outing.

Monday’s win puts UConn at 25-0 on the season with the non-conference win. These two programs also met last season as the Huskies beat South Carolina on the road when the two teams were ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the country.

South Carolina (21-3) was led by 17 points from junior forward A’ja Wilson while senior center Alaina Coates had a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds. The Gamecocks tried to use their size to pound the Huskies on the interior but UConn was up to the challenge and also did a great job of shutting down South Carolina’s perimeter shooting (28 percent three-point shooting).

UConn already shattered the record for longest winning streak in NCAA history earlier this season back on Jan. 14 with their 91st consecutive win, which came against SMU.

The four-time defending national champions haven’t lost since since Nov. 17, 2014 when they fell to Stanford in overtime. That loss to Stanford snapped another 47-game winning streak that the Huskies had going.

This current 100-game winning streak is the second time the UConn women’s program passed the previous Division I win streak record — which was set with 88 wins by the UCLA men’s team under head coach John Wooden. Head coach Geno Auriemma previously guided the Huskies to a 90-game winning streak — which also started after a loss to Stanford in 2008 and ended with another loss to Stanford on Dec. 30, 2010.

During the current 100-game winning streak, the Huskies didn’t shy away from marquee opponents as they toppled an incredible 28 ranked opponents by over an average of over 20 points per game.

The 2016-17 Huskies have also been impressive because they had to replace Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck — the most successful class in NCAA history. Despite those roster losses, UConn has beaten nine ranked teams this season and looks like the favorite to capture its fifth consecutive national championship.

UConn has four games left in the regular season with a road game at South Florida being the only game against a ranked team. The Huskies will also have to get past the American conference tournament before the NCAA tournament.

If the Huskies enter the NCAA tournament unbeaten they’ll be attempting to win its 12th national title under Geno Auriemma and complete its seventh undefeated season.

Cincinnati finds new home for 2017-18 season while arena is renovated

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Cincinnati will spend the 2017-18 season in a new arena as Fifth Third Arena will be undergoing renovations next season.

The Bearcats announced on Friday that they would play next season at BB&T Arena, which is Northern Kentucky’s home arena.

The 9,400 seat BB&T Arena is a good alternative for Cincinnati because it is a newer arena that was built in 2008 and it is only located seven miles away from downtown Cincinnati.

Fifth Third Arena is getting an $87 million renovation that begins in March and is scheduled to end in October 2018.

 

This is a solid move for both programs as it will be intriguing to see how two Division I teams share the same home arena for one season. My biggest question comes with the home floor. Is Cincinnati spending all season playing with Northern Kentucky logos on the hardwood?

Cincinnati had to find something during its arena overhaul so this is a natural solution that is still relatively close to campus.

Northern Kentucky is the big winner in this. BB&T Arena will get a lot of new fans coming there next season and that should only enhance the Northern Kentucky basketball brand in that area. Some Cincinnati fans could check out a game at that arena for the first time, realize how nice of a facility it is, and come back for a Northern Kentucky game or another event at the arena. That’s what Northern Kentucky gains from all of this.

Cincinnati’s larger national profile also means that a healthy amount of nationally-televised games should be coming from that arena as well, which gives it even more visibility.

 

VIDEO: Memphis center Chad Rykhoek taken off floor with leg injury

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Memphis senior center Chad Rykhoek was a unique story this season. This was his final season of eligibility after four years at Baylor as the 6-foot-11 Rykhoek had never played in a college game because of multiple hip surgeries.

Rykhoek joined Memphis as a graduate transfer this season and is coming off of a career-high 12 points in a Tiger loss to Monmouth on Tuesday.

Now Rykhoek’s season might be finished as the senior went down with a left ankle injury and was taken off on a gurney in the Memphis game at Oklahoma on Saturday. It happened in the first half, and it looks like the big man either broke or dislocated the ankle (you can see a screen-grab of the injury at the bottom of this post):

It was bad enough the player’s mother joined him on the floor.

This is an awful injury for a player who worked so hard to return to the floor. Rykhoek was a solid member of the Memphis rotation this season, averaging 6.4 points and 2.8 rebounds per game. After putting up his career high and then going through this, hopefully Rykhoek can recover and play again.

In a touching moment, players from both teams came over to see Rykhoek off:

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No. 21 Rhode Island overcomes slow start, injury to beat No. 24 Cincinnati

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Rhode Island had every reason to fold after the first half against No. 24 Cincinnati.

The No. 21 Rams got off to a sluggish start and things looked potentially ugly when starting guard Jarvis Garrett left the game on a stretcher after a nasty fall.

But Rhode Island rallied in the second half behind a balanced scoring attack to erase a 12-point deficit and win 76-71 on Saturday afternoon at the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off semifinals at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.

Garrett was scoreless when he was taken out of the game, but his fellow Rams starters picked up the slack. All four finished in double-figures as E.C. Matthews buried the dagger three-pointer with under a minute left and finished with 18 points. Jared Terrell and Hassan Martin both tallied 14 points while Kuran Iverson added 13 points and 12 rebounds.

The Rhode Island defense did a nice job of slowing down two key Cincinnati players as Troy Caupain (12 points, 4-for-14 shooting) and Gary Clark (four points, 1-for-5 shooting) both had off-nights.

Sophomore Jacob Evans and Junior Kyle Washington both had strong outings for the Bearcats. Washington, the N.C. State transfer, showed a versatile scoring package on his way to 23 points. Washington also added eight rebounds and was 2-for-3 from three-point range but didn’t get a lot of chances to create offense down the stretch.

When Cincinnati (2-1) was balanced offensively early in the game, they looked like a very strong team as Caupain was primarily involved. Washington looked tough to guard one-on-one and Evans (25 points) was also doing a lot of damage. Cincinnati could never find a consistent third scorer after Caupain’s start as their offense sputtered in the second half. Evans is going to be a consistent scorer and you hope that Washington is able to keep contributing like that, but Caupain and Clark need to step up more in the scoring column.

Rhode Island (4-0) moves on to face No. 1 Duke tomorrow in the championship game at Mohegan Sun. Even though the Blue Devils are battling plenty of injuries to rotation players, it should be a good test for the Rams against another top-flight opponent.