It wasn't always pretty, but Cincinnati earned the 65-56 win over the East Carolina Pirates, spearheaded by Troy Caupain's career-high 27 points. East Carolina, now 11-18 (3-13), used the three-point shot to make the game interesting early and late in the second half, but it was ultimately the resilient Bearcats who pulled out the win and avoided the potentially deflating loss as Cincinnati pushes for another NCAA Tournament berth.
Cincinnati got off to a fast start, making an early 13-6 run to start the game. East Carolina, who lived largely on the three all game, responded with a run of their own, taking a 15-13 lead on a Prince Williams three-pointer. Williams would be a thorn in Cincinnati's side all game long, leading the Pirates in scoring with 18 points on 4-of-9 from three. East Carolina, as a team, would hit 13 three-pointers over the course of the game on 29 shots.
The Bearcats would close out the first half with a 24-10 run though, giving Cincinnati the 37-25 lead heading into the break. Cincinnati was actually shooting better than the Pirates from long-range in the first half, knocking down 6-of-13 (46.2%) shots compared to East Carolina's 7-of-16 (43.8%). While Williams had 14 of his 18 points in the first half alone, Cincinnati had the start of big performances from Caupain and Jacob Evans, who had 14 and 13 points, respectively. Each had three three-pointers at the break.
The Pirates made another run in the second half, closing the gap to two points with only 5:33 remaining. The 56-54 lead for Cincinnati was the closest the game would get the rest of the way, as the Bearcats closed the door on East Carolina's upset bid. Cincinnati would go on to win 65-56.
Caupain was a star for Cincinnati in this one, scoring a career-high 27 points on 9-of-14 field goals and 4-of-7 from deep. Caupain also added four assists and three rebounds to his statline. Evans also finished the game with four three-pointers. He finished with 18 points and seven rebounds. Octavius Ellis earned another double-double, with 10 points and 14 rebounds. Ellis added three blocks and was a consistent force down low.
Cincinnati shot 43.1% from the field as a team on 25-of-58 shooting. The Bearcats also finished the game shooting 40% from deep, going 8-of-20. Cincinnati was aggressive defensively, earning five steals and swatting away five shots. The Bearcats won the rebounding battle, 38-31.
Cincinnati moves to 21-8 overall and 11-5 in the American Conference. The Bearcats only have two regular season games remaining on the docket with their next on the road against Houston next Thursday.