A Look At The AAC

The UH/AAC Report: a high scoring week, some teams stay hot while others cool

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Week six in the AAC was pretty high scoring. Five teams scored more than 30 points, with four of them scoring more than 40 and one scoring more than 50. Let's take a closer look at what transpired:

UH was off, but there's still news

Even though the Coogs were off, there was a bit of news that came down. Graduate transfer offensive lineman Justin Murphy has apparently quit the team. He started four games this year: three at right guard and one at right tackle. It's yet to be seen how true the report from GoCoogs.com has any truth or other sources to back it up. So for now, we'll assume it's true.

Other key results

Cincinnati 27, UCF 24: The Bearcats handed the Golden Knights their second loss of the season, and bumped them from the top 25 rankings while taking a spot on the rankings themselves.

SMU 43, Tulsa 37: SMU stayed undefeated with triple overtime win over the Tulsa. No one saw the lowly Golden Hurricanes giving the ranked, undefeated Mustangs this much trouble. SMU is 6-0 for the first time since 1982.

Tulane 42, Army 33: Tulane held off the Army rushing attack for a strong win improving to 4-1 on the season. What's most impressive is they beat Army with a rushing yardage differential of +131.

Stars of the week

Cincinnati Defense: I said last week that UCF would have a tough time with this defense on the road. While they gave up 423 yards of offense, they also forced four turnovers that helped them win the game.

Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Memphis: Talk about an appropriate name! He rushed for 209 yards on 14 carries and two touchdowns in a 52-33 win over ULM.

Tulane Offense: The Green Wave had four guys rush for 50 or more yards and a touchdown in their win over Army. This contributed heavily to their +131 rushing yardage differential.

Games to watch this week

Memphis @ Temple

Cincinnati @ Houston

Navy @ Tulsa

Players to watch this week

Kenneth Gainwell, Memphis: Gainwell leads a rushing attack that averages 214.4 yards a game going against a defense the gives up 125.6 yards a game on the ground.

Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati: I expect Ridder to have a big game against the porous UH defense as the 4-1 Bearcats look to build off their big win over UCF.

Tulsa Defense: The Golden Hurricanes are average against the run. Navy excels in their triple option attack. This will be the deciding factor in this matchup.

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The Houston Rockets are on to phase two, and no they are not about to release a handful of movies like Marvel’s The Avengers, but instead have a new goal in mind — returning to the playoffs.

Houston officially introduced Ime Udoka as its 15th head coach in franchise history on Wednesday. Before Udoka uttered a single word, Rockets governor Tilman Fertitta made it clear they feel like they have a great pool of young talent that is ready to take the next step.

When combined with the plethora of cap space available to use in the offseason, the goal is to get back to the postseason, he said.

“There is nothing like cap space, which we have approximately $60 million available,” Fertitta said. “When you mix these new stars, new young stars with the free agents, I’m expecting a lot from these guys here [pointing at Udoka and general manager Rafael Stone]. That’s exciting and it is time to get on the right path.”

The Rockets have missed the NBA Playoffs for three straight seasons, and have won less than 22 games each year. Fertitta said when Houston lost James Harden in 2021, the organization made the decision to go young and stockpile talent instead of hovering in the middle of the pack of the league.

Now three years later, Fertitta and Stone believe the Rockets are ready to make a jump to competitiveness again, and Udoka is the right coach to lead the team.

Udoka, who led the Boston Celtics to the NBA Finals in his first and only season with the franchise in 2022, comes from Gregg Popovich’s San Antonio coaching staff. He spent seven seasons on the Spurs’ staff, the 2019-20 year with Brett Brown’s Philadelphia 76ers staff and 2020-21 with Steve Nash’s staff in Brooklyn.

Udoka’s coaching style will revolve around being upfront and honest with his players, he said. While Houston is one of the youngest teams in the NBA, he does not want that to be used as an excuse for bad habits and poor play, he added. His job is to expedite Houston’s development.

“Whether it is making the same mistakes, not making the right defensive assignments, poor shot selections, all that stuff has to be addressed, but also improved on,” Udoka said. “Understanding that we are going to take some lumps with our age and our youth, but my message to them is that is not an excuse.”

The elephant in the room on Wednesday was Udoka’s tumultuous exit from Boston. He was ultimately ousted from the Celtics organization for having an improper, intimate and consensual relationship with a female member of the team’s staff, which was a violation of the franchise’s code of conduct.

Udoka, Stone and Fertitta all addressed the situation.

Fertitta said Houston did its due diligence when deciding to hire Udoka. It was important for him to feel good about Udoka, and the NBA told him they saw no issues that would arise if the Rockets indeed hired him, Fertitta stated.

While on hiatus from the NBA, Udoka said he spent time taking leadership and sensitivity training, and he also went to therapy with his son to address the trust issues stemming from the improper relationship in Boston.

Ultimately, Fertitta, Stone and Udoka felt strongly about committing to each other.

The biggest message coming out of Udoka’s eventful news conference, which included Fertitta accidentally revealing the Rockets are working on opening a new $70 million practice facility in the Galleria area in the near future, was that all three parties are aligned with the vision of what needs to be done to turn the Rockets around.

For Udoka, alignment is essential for long-term success.

“I think it is the most crucial piece honestly,” Udoka said. “I came up for most of my NBA career as a player, and then obviously as a coach in the San Antonio system. I saw the symmetry between front office, ownership, and coaching staff down to the players. I think that is the only way it can truly work.”

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