Cincinnati is essentially in tournament play already, as each and every game teeters the Bearcats back and forth on the edge of NCAA tournament projections. This one against East Carolina was one Cincinnati absolutely needed to win and they did just that, defeating the Pirates, 75-60.
Cincinnati jumped out to a fast start with an early 8-2 run with Octavius Ellis scoring four early points. Ellis, who finished the game with a double-double, controlled the first half for the Bearcats, scoring 12 points and securing seven rebounds as the senior was a force down low.
East Carolina, led by eight points each from B.J. Tyson and Caleb White in the first half, would take a brief one-point lead with just over eight minutes until the break on a White three-pointer. Cincinnati would bounce back though and close out the half on a 14-5 run, leading 34-26 at the half. Gary Clark had seven points and seven rebounds to go along with eight points from Troy Caupain, heading into the break.
The Pirates came out firing in the second half, storming back to a 37-38 deficit while knocking down two three-pointers in the process. A Cincinnati timeout with 16:44 remaining stopped the bleeding momentarily with Jacob Evans hitting a three-pointer of his own out of the timeout. However, another White three and a Prince Williams layup tied the game at 42 with 13:37 left.
Cincinnati responded with a Kevin Johnson three-pointer and a monstrous dunk from Evans, followed by another dunk from Johnson. While East Carolina would pull within five points with 6:41 remaining, that was as close as they would get the rest of the way.
The Bearcats closed out the game strong, winning 75-60 and moving their overall record to 19-7, while moving to 9-4 in the AAC.
Ellis led the way with 16 points and 11 rebounds. He also added four assists, two steals and two blocks as he stuffed the stat sheet. Clark secured yet another double-double for the Bearcats with 15 points and 12 rebounds himself. Evans finished with 10 points while Caupain added 12 points and six assists. Johnson scored 15 points.
Cincinnati shot well from the field, hitting 29-of-60 (48.3%) shots. They only knocked down 8-of-27 (29.6%) from three. ECU hit 9-of-22 (40.9%) from three, which was better than their shooting percentage from the field, going 22-of-58 (37.9%).
Cincinnati's next game is against a tough Tulsa squad next Thursday, February 18.