Written By Adrian Beecher
Hartford, CT -Markus Kennedy scored 15 points and grabbed 6 rebounds to lead the SMU Mustangs to a 62-54 win over the UConn Huskies to win the 2015 American Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament. Kennedy was named the tournaments Most Outstanding Player and with the win the Mustangs earned their spot in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1993.
UConn opened up the scoring with a jumper from Rodney Purvis with 18:08 left in the first half to give the Huskies their first and only lead of the game. SMU then went on a 7-2 run to give the Mustangs a 3-point lead at the 15:34 mark in the 1st half.
The next 8 minutes were a back and forth battle that saw SMU and UConn trading baskets, but Markus Kennedy scored 6 of the Mustangs next 8 points to give SMU a 15-10 lead with 8:45 left to play in the half.
It was at this point that the Huskies true struggles started, they missed their next four shots, which were all three-point attempts. With 4:09 left to play in the 1st half, the Mustangs had opened up a 13-point lead on the Huskies with the score 23-10.
The Huskies ended their scoring drought with two shots at the free throw line and 2 back to back 3-pointers from Purvis to make it 27-18 with 2:36 left in the half. However the Mustangs were able to match UConn shot for shot and SMU went into the locker room at the half pulling away from the Huskies with a 33-19 lead.
The Mustangs opened up the 2nd half with a quick 3-point play on a layup by Yanick Moreria in which he was fouled and made the shot from the charity strip to give SMU a 17 point lead on UConn.
With 13:11 left to play in regulation the Mustangs had extended their lead back to 17 after trading baskets with the Huskies and it was starting to look very bleak for UConn. However the Huskies would not back down, as they went on an 11-2 scoring run to make it an 8-point game with 7:27 left to play.
The Huskies would get as close as 5 points within the Mustangs, this came with 3:22 left in the game. The Huskies comeback was due in part to a 19 point second half by Rodney Purvis. Purvis finished the game with 29 points.
SMU head coach Larry Brown spoke about the determination of the Huskies postgame, “I just want to admire what Connecticut was able to do, after we got such a big lead and the character they showed to come back. It's never easy playing against Kevin, and it's amazing when you play in an atmosphere like this and you realize the tradition they have and you understand why.”
Unfortunately for the hometown faithful that showed up to see their Huskies play, it would be to little to late for UConn. After Purvis drilled a triple with 23 seconds left in the game, Cannen Cunningham hit his two free throws for SMU to make it an 8-point game with just 21 seconds left to play. Purvis then missed his next three-point attempt and Kennedy grabbed the rebound for the Mustangs to seal the Championship for SMU.
With the win, SMU clinches the American Athletic Conferences automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The Mustangs were selected as a No. 6 seed and will play against the No. 11 seeded UCLA Bruins on Thursday March 19th in Lexington, Kentucky with a 3:10pm ET tipoff in the big dance.
Written by Adrian Beecher
Hartford, CT -Ryan Boatright scored 21 points to lead the Huskies in a 47-42 win over Tulsa in the American Athletic Conference Semifinal’s . The win gives the Huskies a chance to seal a spot in the big dance and defend their National Championship from last season.
The Huskies struggled early for the second night in a row as they went scoreless until Ryan Boatright drilled a triple with 12:10 left in the 1st half to cut the Tulsa lead to 4. Boatright scored 9 of the Huskies 19 first half points and added 2 rebounds.
After UConn got on the board, the Hurricane went 2 for 7 from the field and turned the ball over twice, allowing the Huskies to take a 15-11 lead with 7:54 left to play in the 1st half. Tulsa took the lead back at the 4-minute mark with two free throws from Brandon Swannegan to make it 18-17.
Tulsa shot just 30% from the field and 18% from 3-point land in the first half as they went to the locker-room with a 23-19 lead on the hometown Huskies. UConn was a slightly better 38.1% from the field but a much better 50% from beyond the arc contributed to them staying in the game.
Shaquille Harrison opened up the 2nd half for the Hurricane with a 3-pointer to extend Tulsa’s lead to 7 for the first time since the Huskies were scoreless. UConn then spent the majority of the 2nd half trying their best to chip away at Tulsa’s lead.
With 6:35 left to play in the game the Hurricane had opened up a 10 point lead on UConn. With a little help from the crowd, the Huskies went on a 13-3 run to tie the game up at 41 with just 1:44 left to play and the XL Center rockin’.
“Man, when you're tired and gasping for air and things ain't going your way, that crowd is the thing that pulls you through. The screaming and emotion and the support that they give us all year through our ups and downs, we just want to continue to fight and give them a show and give them something to cheer for.” said Boatright of the impact of the crowd support at the XL Center.
Tulsa took the lead back momentarily with a free throw to make it 42-41, but Rodney Purvis drained a jumper that put the Huskies in the lead for the first time since there was 4:01 left in the first half. The crowd exploded and it was easy to see that the momentum had clearly changed in favor of UConn.
Tulsa was forced to play the foul game and Huskies guard Boatright took the duties at the line and drilled 4 straight shots from the line to send UConn to the AAC Championship game on Sunday. The Huskies 47-42 win punched their ticket to face SMU and a chance to win an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
UConn will face the No. 1 seeded SMU Mustangs in the American Athletic Conference Championship game at 3:15 pm at the XL Center in Hartford, CT on ESPN.
Written by Adrian Beecher
Hartford, CT- Markus Kennedy scored 17 points and grabbed 9 rebounds as he came off the bench to give SMU Mustangs just the spark they needed to topple the Owls in the AAC Semifinals.
Temple jumped out to an early 11-3 lead on the Mustangs as the game got started. In the first 4 minutes Temple was shooting 40% from the field, while the Stangs were only at 14%. The Owls would then extend their lead to 10 on a 3 point play by Will Cummings to make it 17-7 with 11:17 left to play in the first half.
Larry Browns Mustangs then went on a 9-2 run to cut the lead to just three with 6:36 left in the first half. But turnovers would allow the Owls to stay in the lead until :46 seconds were left in the half and the Mustang’s were able to tie the game at 26. The Owls capitalized on SMU turnovers with 11 points in the first half as they went to the locker room with a 28-26 lead.
The Mustangs came out in the second half with fire in their eyes shooting 9 for 10 in the first 9 minutes. Ryan Manual laid down a monster slam for the Stangs that made it 49-38 with 11:52 left to play in the game.
Sterling Brown talked about the teams’ explosive start to the second half. “We were just getting stops and executing. We talked about that at halftime, we wanted to come out and execute and do what Coach said.” Brown finished the game with 10 boards and 8 points.
The Owls fought their way back, but down the stretch they were only able to get as close as 7 point 5 times as the Mustangs continue to out perform the Owls. SMU finished the game on an 8-2 run to seal their spot in the AAC Championship game with a 69-56 win over Temple.
The win puts the Mustangs in a conference championship game for the first time since 1988, that came when they were in the now dissolved Southwest Conference. They will face the winner of UConn vs Tulsa on Sunday at 3:15 pm on ESPN
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