Jan 23, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats forward Justin Jackson (5) reacts after a scoring play during the first half of the game against the Central Florida Knights at Fifth Third Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rob Leifheit-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati Bearcats Beat UCF 61-58, Will Face Winner Of UConn-Memphis in AAC Semis

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Phew! That game was a little closer than I wanted. After shellacking Central Florida by 18 and 28 points in their regular season matchups, I never would have imagined the Knights would have played Cincinnati so close. But after their exciting win in double-overtime over the Temple Owls in the opening round of the AAC Tournament, UCF was likely riding high on a cloud of confidence. But the Bearcats leaned on their senior leaders tonight to avoid the upset. Sean Kilpatrick was rebound shy of a double-double, putting up 21 points and 9 boards. Justin Jackson put up 14 points and snagged 8 rebounds of his own. Even freshman Kevin Johnson stepped up his game, contributing 8 points of his own.

Hopefully this tight game boosted Cincinnati’s awareness heading into the semifinals. They squeaked by Central Florida but won’t get away with their lackadaisical attitude against the UConn Huskies or hometown Memphis Tigers. UC will face one of them next in the AAC semifinals tomorrow at 9:30 on ESPN/ESPN2. I’m confident an experienced coach like Mick Cronin and players like Kilpatrick and Jackson will be ready for either of those teams. Hopefully that focus shows itself tomorrow night.

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