It is official folks, the UC Bearcats are not only your regular reason AAC champs – they are also your AAC Tournament champs! Back-to-back 30 wins season for the first time in program history and UC is not done yet. Gary Clark is going to need to rent a storage unit if he collects any more trophies and hardware this post-season. What a way to go out for the senior leader, earning AAC Tournament MVP.
Following a 10-point win over SMU, the Bearcats struggled again during the first half against a red-hot Memphis squad. Down 13 at the half, UC battled back shooting nearly 80% from the field in the second half. Playing great UC defense and rebounding, the Cats created a 23-point swing to beat Memphis, 70-60.
Jacob Evans struggled again, going 3-13 for 7 points and 7 rebounds. Mr. Consistency, Gary Clark, once again went for 17 and 12 and added 3 blocks and 3 assists. Cumberland led all scorers with 18, and Kyle Washington added 11 points.
This all led to today’s AAC Tournament finale, pitting UC against the Houston Cougars. UH has come a long way under head coach Kelvin Sampson. Houston is now a force to be reckoned with, having beat Wichita State in the semifinals. Coach Sampson has now led four different teams to the NCAA Tournament.
Led by senior guard / samurai / man bun aficionado, #32 Rob Gray, Houston can play scrappy defense and can shoot the ball quite well. Down again at the half 37-35, UC clawed their way back, to earn a 1-point victory, 56-55 in Orlando.
Lady Luck definitely was UC’s side today. In the second half – again – UC dominated, holding Houston to 18 points on 20% shooting. Still, Houston had 2 separate opportunities to win in the final seconds. UC’s seasoned defense held strong and Houston imploded.
Jacob Evans again had a tough outing, injuring a finger and nursing his right knee. Going 5-17 for 12 points and 6 boards. Clark went off for 20 points and 12 rebounds. Only one player from the bench, Broome, added just 4 points. This was a very scrappy UC win premised purely on defense and grit – quintessential Cronin basketball.
What a special year for a special team.
Time for the Madness to begin.
By Andy Smith