It’s feels good be on top of the conference. And now that SMU has conquered the conference and won both the regular season and the tournament titles, lets look back at their AAC Championship run.
First Up for SMU was the East Carolina Pirates.
Despite shooting the lights out of the XL Center, the ECU Pirates could not defeat SMU in the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference. The final score was 74-68 and SMU advanced to the semifinals on Saturday.
Nic Moore lead all scorers with 20 points and Markus Kennedy added 15 off the bench.
ECU shot 44 percent from three point range. Every player that scored for the Pirates made a three and everyone who played attempted at least one.
The Pirates were led by Antonio Robinson who scored a career high 18 points.
The difference maker in this game was SMU’s defense and attacking offense.
SMU outscored ECU in the paint 44-16 and had 27 points off of turnovers. The Mustangs also had 17 fast break points.
The Mustangs shot 47 percent from the field, 33 percent from three-point range, had only nine turnovers and out rebounded the Pirates 34-27. This lead to SMU having 17 second chance points to ECU’s two.
In the semifinals, SMU had to take on Temple for the third time this season. Every time the teams met, SMU had to come from behind for the win.
Per usual, SMU got off to a slow start against Temple. But then the Mustangs went on an 8-2 run to enter halftime trailing only by two and rallied in the second half to defeat the Owls 69-56.
Markus Kennedy led all scorers with 17 points and nine rebounds.
SMU also got contributions from Yanick Moreira and Cannen Cunningham. Moreira finished with 11 points and eightrebounds, while Cunningham finished with 11 points and three boards.
But one of the most important contributors was Sterling Brown.
Brown finished with 10 points and eight rebounds- but the timing of his contributions were key.
Ben Emelogu’s defensive efforts on Will Cummings was phenomenal. On three straight possessions, SMU managed to neutralize the Owl’s star guard.
The Owls were led by Quenton Decosey who had 14 points and five rebounds.
In the second half, SMU went on a 14-2 run to build an 11 point lead. During that run, Moore hit a three pointer, a lay up, and found a streaking Ryan Manuel for an alley oop.
SMU advanced to the finals to battle for the conference tournament championship against sixth seeded UConn.
The XL Center in Hartford, CT. hosted a heavyweight title fight between SMU and UConn on Sunday.
SMU jumped in front of UConn early and held onto the lead for 36:02 to win the AAC Championship 62-54.
The Huskies made a late run with Markus Kennedy and Ben Moore in foul trouble and got within five with about three minute left to play. However, SMU attacked the rim, got into the bonus and made clutch free throws to hang on.
Kennedy led the way for SMU and finished with 15 points and six rebounds.
UConn was led by Rodney Purvis- who finished with 29 points and three rebounds.
The Mustangs had four players score in double figures. Kennedy with the 15, Nic Moore with 11, Ben Moore finished with 10, and Yanick Moreira added 11.
This was the third time SMU fought UConn this season. And after today’s win in the championship round, it is safe to say that a rivalry has been born.