American Athletic Conference quarterfinals evening session: South Florida and Temple dominate in advancing to semifinals

UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Quarterfinal play in the American Athletic Conference tournament concluded this evening with two dominating performances. No. 2 seed South Florida throttled No. 7 seed SMU, 73-60 in the first game, and No. 3 seed Temple knocked off No. 6 Tulsa 78-52, as the higher seeds advanced to face each other in tomorrow’s semifinals.

Earlier, in the day games, No. 5 seed Tulane upset No. 4 Memphis and No. 1 seed Connecticut blew by No. 8 East Carolina to set up tomorrow’s first semifinal.

South Florida 73, SMU 60

In the first game of the evening double-header, Courtney Williams went over, around and through the SMU defense to lead South Florida to a 73-60 victory and a return to the semifinals.

Williams set tournament records for most points in a quarter (18) and in a game (29) as she led the Bulls to their victory. She also contributed eight rebounds and two assists.

South Florida had control from the outset, with Williams scoring 18 of the first 20 points for the Bulls, leading by as much as 18 in the first half, and coasting in the second. Arianda Pujol scored 16 for the Bulls, the only other player in double figures.

SMU kept trying to get back into it, but got no closer than eight points early in the fourth quarter. Morgan Bolton led the Mustangs with 12, and Gabrielle Wilkins added 11.

Coach Jose Fernandez sang the praises of his star guard Williams’ all-around performance.

“She’s done a much better job facilitating things; when the ball is going in like it was in the first quarter for her [to still pass the ball and get people involved], that’s just her growing and maturing as a basketball player, and that’s good to see.”

“I was told by an uncle of mine, once you get in a zone, you’ve got to stay in that zone, because it’s so vulnerable,” Williams said. “Anything can take you out of it, so I just tried to keep shooting when I was open.”

South Florida advances to face Temple tomorrow in the second semifinal.

Temple 78, Tulsa 52

In the final game of the night, Temple used a stifling first half defense and timely scoring to open up a 36-19 halftime lead and coasted to an easy 78-52 victory over Tulsa.

“With us, I feel like it’s a broken record.” said head coach Tonya Cardoza. “When we turn it up on the defensive side and we make things difficult, we get to get out and transition, and that’s where we thrive. We just thrive off of getting stops and whether it’s a charge or a block, we really feed off of that. And then we start knocking down shots, it’s just a rollercoaster.”

Tanaya Atkinson was the prime beneficiary of the defensive pressure, scoring 16 first half points on her way to leading the Owls with 20. Five players were in double figures for Temple, with Alliya Butts and Feyonda Fitzgerald scoring 14 each, Donnaizha Fountain with 11, and Erica Covile with 10.

“It was just good energy and good vibes,” Atkinson said. “We were doing exactly what we were supposed to do.
Everything was falling in the right p[lace. We just enjoyed the game.“

Tulsa struggled early and often from the floor, hitting only 26 percent for the first half and 34 percent of their shots for the game, including 1-for-13 from three point land. Ashley Clark led Tulsa with 18 points, but needed 20 shots to get there.

Temple will play South Florida at 6:30 pm tomorrow on ESPNU. They split two games during the regular season.

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