CINCINNATI (AP) -- Cincinnati's seniors hugged before the game and relayed a quick, quiet message.
"We all whispered in each other's ears: 'It's time to go,'" Sean Kilpatrick said.
Kilpatrick scored a season-high 34 points in his final home game, and Cincinnati's trio of senior starters led the way to a 97-84 victory over No. 20 Memphis on Thursday night that left the American Athletic Conference race tied.
Afterward, Kilpatrick went from one end of the court to the other, stood on the sideline tables and saluted the students, thinking about how he would never get to do it again.
"Just the fact that I won't be able to play in front of them again, something I spent five years basically ..." he said, before stopping to wipe a tear from his eye with his red jersey.
There's still more to do with one game left in the regular season.
The Bearcats (25-5, 14-3 AAC) remained tied atop the first-year league with No. 11 Louisville. The Cardinals won 84-71 at No. 18 Southern Methodist on Wednesday night and finish at home against No. 19 Connecticut. The Bearcats close the regular season at Rutgers.
Cincinnati and Louisville split their season series, each winning on the other's home court. The Bearcats haven't won a league title since they were in Conference USA.
"That's something we've been striving for the past couple of years," Kilpatrick said. "It's an accomplishment. Being able to have that in our possession and go out and grab a win is something we really need to do."
The Tigers (22-8, 11-6) fell apart in the opening minutes and never got even or pulled ahead. Cincinnati's seniors kept the Bearcats ahead the whole game.
Kilpatrick led the way in his final home game at the school where he will end up as the No. 2 all-time scorer behind Oscar Robertson. Forward Titus Rubles had a career-high 24 points, and forward Justin Jackson added 13 points and nine rebounds despite injuring a shoulder in the second half.
"We had that planned since the beginning of the week started," Jackson said. "We set the tone, everyone was going to follow. That's what happened."
The Bearcats piled up a season-high in points for an AAC game. It was the second-most points Memphis had allowed all season.
"It seemed like all their players were shooting well today," said Memphis forward Austin Nichols, who had 17 points. "I know Rubles won't do that most of the time. Kilpatrick can do it, but it was just Rubles' night tonight. He was hitting just about everything he was throwing up there."
The Bearcats' three seniors combined for 71 points and didn't have a turnover.
"Seventy-one points and no turnovers? It's impossible," Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. "Their will was tremendous tonight."
Rubles' showing was the most unexpected. His previous career high was 14 points. He has reached double figures only six times this season.
No. 6 VILLANOVA 77, XAVIER 70
CINCINNATI -- Darrun Hilliard scored 19 points and No. 6 Villanova clinched the outright Big East championship for the first time in 32 years by holding off Xavier 77-70.
No. 22 MICHIGAN ST. 86,
No. 24 IOWA 76
EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Keith Appling scored in double figures for the first time in more than five weeks for Michigan State.
Appling showed his old aggressiveness before hip and wrist injuries and scored 12 points for the Spartans (23-7, 12-5 Big Ten). Travis Trice, Appling's backup, was 3 for 4 from 3-point range and had 16 points.
PENN STATE 59,
EVANSTON, Ill. -- D.J. Newbill scored 12 points and Penn State's zone defense stifled Northwestern in the Nittany Lions' 59-32 Big Ten win.
Penn State's 2-3 zone defense frustrated Northwestern the entire game. The Wildcats' 32 points were a season low and the fewest scored by any team in Big Ten play.