How it Happened
Despite only leading by three points at the half, SMU was very much in the driver’s seat from the beginning of this one. Still, while the Mustangs dictated the pace, the Knights seemed more than game to keep up. For every play SMU made, UCF seemed to have an answer never letting the Mustangs lead by more than six points in the first half. However, in the second, SMU played with a greater sense of urgency and slowly built a lead that UCF couldn’t overcome and the Mustangs won 70-59. Shake MIlton hit a 3-pointer with 13:37 left in the game to give SMU a 42-34 lead, prompting a UCF timeout. But just before the timeout, B.J Taylor was called for a contact foul and a technical, Sterling Brown knocked down the ensuing free throws to give the Mustangs a 10 point lead as the momentum shifted entirely to SMU’s side of the court. The Mustangs pushed that lead out to 14 points with 9:17 left to play in the game and UCF was unable to climb back into the game, despite a couple of late 3-pointers from Taylor in the final three minutes that did little else but make SMU sweat a little more.
What it Means
SMU will face the winner between UConn and Cincinnati in the conference championship on Sunday. After struggling to put ECU away on Friday, SMU showed its killer instinct with a dominant second half performance to reach the program’s second AAC tournament championship. SMU won the tournament championship in 2014-15. The Mustangs were ineligible for the AAC tournament in 2015-16.
Player of the Game
As we are used to seeing, Sterling Brown did a little bit of everything Saturday. He finished the day with 22 points and six rebounds, four assists. His defense against Matt Williams also went a long way in the Mustangs’ win. With Brown guarding him, Williams (who leads UCF all-time with 258 career 3-pointers) to just five points and just one, 3-pointer. He was 1-for-6 from long range. After just scoring six points in the first half, Brown stepped up in the second half scoring 12 points
SMU had three players finish in double-figures: Brown,Shake Milton, and Semi Ojeleye. Milton finished the night with 16 points and was 4-for-9 from 3-point range, while Ojeleye had 17 points.
SMU will play the winner of Cincinnati and UConn Sunday at 2:15 p.m CT.