Washington, defense lead No. 22 Cincinnati past ECU 55-46
GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP) At least No. 22 Cincinnati didn’t lose. That was the only thing that pleased coach Mick Cronin.
The Bearcats beat East Carolina 55-46 on Sunday for their eighth straight win, behind 16 points and 11 rebounds from Kyle Washington.
”The only place we won today was on the scoreboard,” Cronin said. ”We didn’t get better today. We got worse.”
Jacob Evans III added 10 points for the Bearcats (15-2, 5-0 American Athletic Conference), who overcame their own shooting struggles by making things even tougher on a Pirates team missing its top scorer.
Cincinnati extended its longest winning streak since the 2013-14 team reeled off 15 straight.
”We have to put everything in perspective,” Washington said. ”A lot of these AAC teams, no disrespect, but we have to just keep on playing hard because we’re trying to play very good teams, top-10 teams, in March and April, moving forward and doing something big.”
Freshman Elijah Hughes scored 18 points in his first start and fellow freshman Jeremy Sheppard added 13 for East Carolina (9-10, 1-5), which has lost five in a row and hasn’t beaten a nationally ranked opponent since knocking off Dwyane Wade and No. 13 Marquette in 2002.
Cincinnati entered with the nation’s No. 3 defense according to Ken Pomeroy’s advanced statistics, and the Bearcats held East Carolina to 25 percent from the field and to 4-of-23 shooting from 3-point range. The 46 points allowed was a season best.
That tough D helped make up for an offense that couldn’t get on track. Cincinnati matched season worsts with both 32.8 percent shooting and 55 points, and had a season-worst eight shots blocked by East Carolina.
”(The Pirates) didn’t make it easy for us,” Cronin said. ”To come out, not making shots, we didn’t do what we needed to do to get the ball to get fouled, to get more ball movement, to get people open. We thought today was going to be easy. That’s just the truth of it.”
Cincinnati: The Bearcats’ trademark toughness led the way in this one, building a 47-36 rebounding advantage and blocking nine shots while holding yet another opponent well under 70 points. Now the challenge is getting the offense clicking again.
East Carolina: The Pirates’ first game without top scorer B.J. Tyson, who injured his leg in a loss to Houston last time out, also marked the last one before coach Jeff Lebo starts a leave of absence Monday to have hip surgery. Their defense played well enough to steal this one, but the offense outside of Hughes and Sheppard was virtually nonexistent – the rest of the team was a combined 5 of 30.
”I thought we did so many good things out there tonight, and I was proud of that effort,” Lebo said. ”If we could have just got a few (shots) to go. Every time we had a chance to get one or two of them to go, we just could not put the ball in the basket.”
The only player to earn Cronin’s praise was center Nysier Brooks, who had a career-best five blocked shots. ”I thought he probably won us the game.”
HE SAID IT
Cincinnati’s Troy Caupain, who entered averaging 10.4 points, scored all eight of his points in a span of 1 minute, 21 seconds late in the first half. Cronin said Caupain had no points, no assists and no turnovers 14 minutes into the game and that realization prompted him to confront his guard. ”If he would have told me, I would have left him at home and brought one of the managers,” Cronin said. ”I’m sure they would have appreciated the opportunity to come down here today and put on a uniform.”
TONS OF WASHINGTONS
Each team had an Atlantic Coast Conference transfer named Washington in its starting lineup. Cincinnati’s Washington began his college career at North Carolina State while the Pirates have ex-Wake Forest big man Andre Washington.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats face a Wednesday home game against a Temple team that already owns victories over two teams that have since climbed into the top 10.
East Carolina: The Pirates have a week off before visiting Connecticut on Jan. 22 in their first game without Lebo.
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