(ORLANDO, Fla.- HMG) Coach Mick Cronin and his No.8-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats were just too tough for Tubby Smith and his Memphis squad on Saturday at the Amway Center moving into the American Athletic Conference championship game with a 70-60 victory.
“It was a good win for us and hopefully we learned a lesson, that the other team, no matter what their record and no matter what the situation may be, you have to realize that team’s coming to win, said Cronin, who coached his team to 28 victories this season for the second consecutive year. “They’re not going to care what your seed is. Memphis had to win two more to get to the NCAA Tournament. Whoever we play in the Tournament next week is going to have to win or they’re going home. So we have to understand that that’s the type of intensity that we’re going to face.”
Cincinnati will be appearing in its second consecutive American Athletic Conference men’s basketball championship taking on the Houston Cougars at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday.
Although Cronin was particularly gracious to Coach Smith and the Memphis team, the Bearcats dominated throughout the second half; they opened on a 22-2 run and outscored their opponents by a 41-18 margin during that half. Cincinnati held Memphis to 18.5 percent shooting in the second half after the Tigers scored 42 in the first.
“Like Coach said, no matter who it is, they’re going to come out with fire,” said Bearcat Forward, Gary Johnson who had 17 points. “They’re not going to care the seeding or who is on our team, doesn’t matter, they’re going to come out and try to get a W.”
Cincinnati left the first half down by 13, which is their largest halftime deficit of the season. Behind 42-29 at halftime, Tubby Smith and his Memphis team seemed in control and on their way to improving their resume for a bid to the “big dance.” In the end, the Bearcat defense was too tight and the scoring prowess of the Cincinnati squad was too much for the Tigers to handle.
“Coach Smith has done a tremendous job weathering the storm,” Cronin said. “I mean, whose best player breaks his foot and then you win seven of eight games? And then take the No. 1 seed and a team that is 29-4 and put them on the ropes with a bunch of guys that weren’t your team last year? You’ve got to give them credit, their coaches and their players.”
HMG Staff: Carl Ey