The University of Cincinnati men's basketball team isn't finished yet.
With freshman Mason Madsen (10 points) being the only Cincinnati player to score in double figures, the fifth-seeded Bearcats held on to defeat top-seeded Wichita State, 60-59, on Saturday in the semifinals of the American Athletic Conference tournament in Fort Worth, Texas.
"The locker room was crazy, really fun, obviously," Madsen said. "But we know we have to refocus. We're going to enjoy this one for the next couple of hours, but obviously, being in the position we're in, there's a quick turnaround tomorrow against either Memphis or Houston, two really good teams."
The Bearcats (12-10, 8-6), who have won each of the past two AAC tournaments (last season's tournament was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic), will face second-seeded Houston (23-3, 14-3) in Sunday's AAC tournament championship game. Tipoff is scheduled for 3:15 p.m. on ESPN.
It will be the fourth straight appearance in the AAC title game for UC, which is 9-3 since returning on Feb. 4 from a 25-day layoff due to COVID-19 issues. One of those three losses came at Houston. The Bearcats lost by 38 points to the Cougars on Feb. 21.
"I'm really excited about how we've been playing and I'm certainly excited about the challenge tomorrow," Cincinnati coach John Brannen said.
Mika Adams-Woods gave the Bearcats a 57-55 lead on two free throws with 1:59 to play. It was Cincinnati's first lead since holding a 37-35 advantage early in the second half.
Freshman Tari Eason made it 59-55 on a layup with 1:15 remaining. Wichita State then drew within two on a pair of free throws by AAC Co-Player of the Year Tyson Etienne with 1:00 left.
Etienne, who entered the game averaging 17.3 points, finished with 13 points on 4-of-11 shooting.
"The individual defense by Mika Adams-Woods and Tari Eason, Dave DeJulius, Mason, Saunders (Mike Saunders Jr.), those guys can sit down and guard," Brannen said. "And then they're committed to each other in terms of the rotations. Just a really together group that really shows up on the defensive side a lot."
Eason, who entered the day shooting 58% (23 of 40) from the free throw line, made one of two foul shots with 19.1 seconds to go to make it 60-57.
After Alterique Gilbert drove in for a layup to bring the Shockers (16-5, 11-2) within one, Eason missed a free throw, but Jeremiah Davenport collected the rebound and was fouled with 8.5 seconds left.
Davenport missed the free throw, but Gilbert's last-second 3-point attempt on the other end banged off the rim and the Bearcats survived.
After scoring nine of the Bearcats' first 16 points, Keith Williams left the game with the score tied 29-29 with 2:52 remaining in the first half. The second-team All-AAC selection and Cincinnati's leading scorer, averaging 14.9 points per game, did not return.
Neither Madsen nor Brannen were able to provide an update on Williams after the game.
"I'm just really proud of everyone for the way that we responded," Madsen said. "Some guys stepped up down the stretch for sure. Keep Keith's season alive."
Cincinnati dominated the glass, outrebounding the Shockers 40-31. The Bearcats also owned an advantage in bench points (26-10) and points in the paint (28-18).
Eason had nine points, 11 rebounds, three blocks and three steals, while Davenport finished with eight points and nine boards.
DeJulius, in his second game since opting back in following a four-game hiatus, had seven points and four assists in 23 minutes.