On Saturday afternoon, the 13-5 Bearcats will host the East Carolina Pirates for the first of their two American Athletic Conference matchups this season. In the game, the Bearcats will be seeking their fifth consecutive win in conference play.
Meet the Opponent
ECU enters the game with a 10-8 overall record. Thus far, they have struggled to a 1-4 mark in league play. This is clearly a rebuilding year for the Pirates, as head coach Heather Macy, now in her seventh year, has built a successful program in Greenville in past years, one that earned three consecutive 20-win seasons between 2012 and 2015.
The Pirates have taken some serious shellackings in league play at the hands of Temple, USF and the Connecticut juggernaut. All three of those 30-plus point defeats took place on the road. ECU played well in its non-conference slate, posting a 9-4 mark against primarily lower-level Division I competition.
The Pirates are a young team. They have six freshman on their roster, including three who post significant minutes. Senior forwards Kristen Gaffney (15.2 PPG) and Bre McDonald (11.4 PPG) are the team’s clear leaders and their top scorers. Coach Macy runs out as many as 10 players each game as she figures out what she has on her young roster.
The Pirates are a small team. They do not have any players taller than 6’1 and no player who averages more than 6.2 rebounds per game. They struggle to rebound against larger, more athletic clubs. When they have been overwhelmed, it has typically been the result of this physical deficit.
Unlike the teams that have overwhelmed ECU, UC is not a particularly big team or one that dominates the boards. While I expect a more athletic and talented UC team to overcome the Pirates, this will be a competitive game. ECU plays with similar grit and tenacity to that we are used to seeing from the Bearcats. UC will have to use a lot of energy to keep up with the deep rotation that ECU uses on a nightly basis. Expect Cincinnati to hang on for a close home victory against ECU.