Memphis, TN (SportsNetwork.com) - Former Big East foes collide when the top- seeded Cincinnati Huskies meet up with the fourth-seeded Connecticut Huskies in the semifinals of the American Athletic Conference Tournament on Friday night at FedExForum.
Although these teams both made the move to the AAC from the Big East this past year, they didn't have a particularly long history against one another. UConn has won nine of 14 all-time meetings. Two of those came this season, with the teams trading victories on their home floors. The winner this time moves on to the title tilt to face either Louisville or Houston.
Perhaps having a bye in the first round worked against Cincinnati, which nearly got knocked off by ninth-seeded UCF in the quarterfinals, before pulling out a 61-58 victory. The Bearcats have still won three straight overall and tied Louisville for the regular-season title.
Having the homecourt advantage didn't help Memphis against UConn in the quarterfinals as the Huskies ran over the Tigers, 72-53. The win was the fourth in the last five games dating back to the regular season for UConn, which is now 25-7 overall.
Niels Giffey drained 6-of-8 shots from beyond the arc and finished with a game-high 24 points, as the Huskies defeated Memphis. Giffey's shooting from distance wasn't the only thing that pushed the Huskies forward, as they clamped down on defense and limited the Tigers to 26.4 percent shooting.
Shabazz Napier (17.6 ppg, 6 rpg, 5.1 apg) is the primary scorer and ball- handler for the Huskies, as he leads the way in scoring, rebounding and assists. He was rewarded for his efforts this season when he was named the AAC's Player of the Year earlier this week. Napier gets plenty of support in the backcourt. Ryan Boatright (11.9 ppg, 3.6 apg) serves as an effective complement on the wings, while Giffey (8.5 ppg) sinks 52.1 percent of his 3- point attempts. DeAndre Daniels (12.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg) is the primary threat on the interior.
Sean Kilpatrick simply willed the Bearcats to their win over UCF, posting 21 points and nine rebounds in the three-point victory. Kilpatrick scored five of the final 11 points for Cincinnati, which limited the Knights to 37.7 percent shooting.
Kilpatrick (20.9 ppg) has been incredible this season. He earned a spot on the All-AAC First Team after leading the conference in scoring. Justin Jackson (11.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 2.9 bpg) hasn't gotten the same amount of publicity, but his work on defense as the league's leader in blocks can't be understated. With Jackson anchoring the squad in the paint, the Bearcats have continued their run as one of the better defensive teams in the country, ranking fourth in points allowed (58.3 ppg) and 17th in opponent field goal percentage (.393).