Cincinnati to face Tulsa in American quarters (Mar 10, 2017)

Cincinnati might be even more motivated than usual when the 15th-ranked Bearcats play Tulsa in the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference tournament Friday at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn.

Cincinnati (27-4) was arguably underrepresented on the all-conference team. The Bearcats finished second in the conference to secure a first-round bye in the AAC tournament, but no Cincinnati players were named first-team All-AAC and only two players were named to the second team.

Tulsa (15-16) entered the AAC tournament as the seventh seed. The Golden Hurricane advanced to the quarterfinals with a 66-60 victory over 10th-seeded Tulane in Thursday’s opening round. Senior guard Pat Birt had a team-high 15 points.

The winner of Friday’s game will face third-seeded Houston, sixth-seeded UConn or 11th-seeded South Florida in Saturday’s semifinals. Cincinnati swept all three of those teams during the regular season.

Cincinnati seemingly brushed off any perceived snubs when all-conference honors were announced earlier this week. Senior guard Troy Caupain and junior forward Kyle Washington were named second-team All-AAC. Freshman guard Jarron Cumberland was named to the all-rookie team.

Sophomore guard Jacob Evans, the team’s leading scorer at 13.4 points per game, and junior forward Gary Clark, Cincinnati’s leading rebounder and third-leading scorer, were not named to the All-AAC team.

“We don’t worry about stuff like that,” Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin told the Cincinnati Enquirer.

The Bearcats have not played since ending the regular season with a 67-47 victory over UConn on Sunday. Clark recorded his seventh double-double of the season, posting 17 points and 14 rebounds.

Washington did not practice in the days leading up to that game due to an ankle injury. Knowing Washington would be limited, Cronin told Clark the team would rely more heavily on him.

“Gary knew that he had to take over today,” Cronin said.

Clark left the game with a bloody nose and a swollen lip after taking an elbow to the face in the second half. Clark said he was fine earlier this week, but Cronin called AAC officials to complain.

“My concern was how that wasn’t a Flagrant 1 foul, at least,” Cronin told The Enquirer. “It was not an inadvertent accident. I think that my team has been targeted because of our ability to rebound the ball lately. There’s a lot of stuff going on above the shoulders.”

Tulsa is led by junior forward Junior Etou, who is averaging 12.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Etou averaged nearly 16 points over the last five games of the regular season. He had 22 against Cincinnati on Feb. 18.

“It’s all about his confidence and just being that guy,” Tulsa coach Frank Haith said. “That is different for him. I think he is growing into that role.”

Tulsa shot just 38 percent and made 6 of 19 from 3-point range in Thursday’s first-round victory over Tulane, but the Golden Hurricane held the Green Wave to 32.7-percent shooting overall and 5-of-21 shooting from beyond the arc.

“I thought we played hard, extremely hard, particularly on the defensive end in the first half,” Haith told ESPN after the game. “I’m proud of how hard we competed. We just didn’t make shots.”