Know the opponent: Wichita State will face AAC player of the year, Cincinnati in semifinals

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Know the opponent: Wichita State will face AAC player of the year, Cincinnati in semifinals

Wichita State guard Samajae Haynes-Jones makes a pass during the second half of the game against Temple on March 15, 2019 at the FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo by Joseph Barringhaus/The Sunflower).

Wichita State guard Samajae Haynes-Jones makes a pass during the second half of the game against Temple on March 15, 2019 at the FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo by Joseph Barringhaus/The Sunflower).

Joseph Barringhaus

Wichita State guard Samajae Haynes-Jones makes a pass during the second half of the game against Temple on March 15, 2019 at the FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo by Joseph Barringhaus/The Sunflower).

Joseph Barringhaus

Joseph Barringhaus

Wichita State guard Samajae Haynes-Jones makes a pass during the second half of the game against Temple on March 15, 2019 at the FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo by Joseph Barringhaus/The Sunflower).

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Wichita State is halfway from completing its mission of winning four games in four days. Winning the American Athletic Conference tournament is the Shockers’ only path to the NCAA Tournament.

“We win two more, we’re in the big dance,” freshman Erik Stevenson said. 

The Shockers have already won two games in two days. A matchup with the two-seeded Cincinnati Bearcats awaits the Shockers on Saturday in the semifinals on Saturday.

“In this tournament, we try to take this one game at a time,” Asbjørn Midtgaard said. “If you lose, you get out of here. We want to win. We’re trying to get to the final.

“It’s one game at a time,” Midtgaard said.

Joseph Barringhaus
Wichita State sophomore Asbjorn Midtgaard gets stuffed by Temple’s Ernest Aflakpui during the game against Temple on March 15, 2019 at the FedExForum. (Photo by Joseph Barringhaus/The Sunflower).

Cincinnati is the lone team in the top-four of the conference Wichita State has played twice in the regular-season. The Shockers lost both of those games.

The team’s meeting inside Charles Koch Arena on Jan. 19 got chippy and rowdy in the second half.

Freshman guard Erik Stevenson was called for a technical foul as was head coach Gregg Marshall, that allowed the Bearcats to score six points without a second of time running off of the clock. The crowd was furious with the outcome and officiating during the game. 

Joseph Barringhaus
Gregg Marshall gives the ref a piece of his mind during the game against Cincinnati on Jan. 19, 2019 at Charles Koch Arena. (Photo by Joseph Barringhaus/The Sunflower).

Cincinnati beat up on the Shockers in the second meeting, too. Each game was decided by 10 or more points.

The Bearcats are ranked in the No. 24 in the rankings, No. 25 in NET Rankings, and No. 34 KenPom. Cincinnati broke free of Southern Methodist in the second half of Friday’s quarterfinal. 

The American Athletic Conference player of the year, Jarron Cumberland, averages 18 points, four rebounds, and three assists per game for Cincinnati.

Junior forward Nysier Brooks will likely start in the post for Cincinnati. He is averaging eight points per game and six rebounds as well. 

Joseph Barringhaus
Wichita State freshman Dexter Dennis drops off of them rim after an alley-oop dunk during the game against Temple on March 15, 2019 at the FedExForum. (Photo by Joseph Barringhaus/The Sunflower).

“You just have to limit their touches and slow them down,” freshman Dexter Dennis said of players like Cumberland. “He’s a good scorer. He gets his points. But we have a guy who gets his points, too.”

Wichita State has Markis McDuffie, who burst on the scene for a career-high 34 points against Temple on Friday in the quarterfinals of the tournament.

“Markis is unbelievable,” Dennis said. “I can’t lie. Markis has been carrying us all year. You guys got to see what we see every day in practice. It’s nothing new.”

Joseph Barringhaus
Wichita State senior Markis McDuffie yells after making a layup during the second half of the game against Temple on March 15, 2019 at the FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo by Joseph Barringhaus/The Sunflower).

Friday’s game against Cincinnati is set for tip off at 4 p.m. inside the FedExForum.

ESPN’s basketball power index gives WSU just a 19.2 percent chance to move on into the AAC Finals. 

The Bearcats open as a six-point favorite over the Shockers.