HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Gary Clark scored 24 points to lead No. 15 Cincinnati to an 81-71 win over UConn in the semifinals of the American Athletic Conference Tournament on Saturday night.
Jacob Evans added 21 points and Troy Caupain had 19 for the Bearcats (29-4), who will be seeking their first AAC title on Sunday against No. 12 SMU.
Jalen Adams scored 20 points and Christian Vital had 19 for UConn. The Huskies finish their season 16-17, their first losing campaign in 30 years.
It was a typically chippy game between the teams, whose rivalry dates to the old Big East. They combined for 56 fouls, 32 committed by UConn.
Cincinnati was 38 of 46 from the foul line. UConn made 20 of its 25 free throw attempts.
UConn cut a 12-point halftime lead to two on a 3-pointer by Rodney Purvis with just over 13 minutes to go, but that was as close as the Huskies would get in the second half.
Evans, who made all three of his shots from behind the arc, hit one from the left wing that stretched it back to 65-55 with 5 minutes left.
Five UConn players finished with four fouls, and seniors Kentan Facey and Purvis fouled out.
Facey was first to go, leaving the game with 3 ½ minutes left and UConn down 65-60.
A minute later it was 70-60 after a pull-up jumper from Clark.
UConn made one final run, cutting the lead to 76-71 on a three-point play by Vital. But the Bearcats scored the final five from the foul line.
The Huskies, who normally play seven, saw Facey and point guard Jalen Adams each picked up three fouls in the game’s first 11 minutes.
Adams’ third, on a steal attempt, put Cincinnati in the double bonus with almost eight minutes still to play before intermission. With the sophomore out of the game the Bearcats scored 20 of the half’s final 28 points. They led by as many as 14 went into the break with a 41-29 lead.
Kyle Washington, who had 21 points for the Bearcats in their quarterfinal win over Tulsa on Friday was held scoreless, and was one of three Bearcats with four fouls.
The Bearcats advance to their first AAC championship game after getting knocked out of the past three conference tournaments by UConn. Cincinnati has not won a conference title since winning the Conference USA title in 2004.
UConn has eight of its top 11 players eligible to come back next season.
The Bearcats were the last team to beat the Mustangs, who have won 15 straight since that 66-64 loss on Jan. 12.
The Huskies, who lost three players for the season to injuries, have plenty of time to heal for next season.
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