It would have been one of the biggest upsets of the season if the East Carolina Pirates had waltzed into BB&T Arena and shut down the No. 12 Cincinnati Bearcats’ then 35-game winning streak at home. Of course, the closest that came to happening was when the Pirates were knocking down shots at a better than 60 percent clip in the early going. From there, the Bearcats’ talent just washed over the court and sunk the Pirates.
One of the areas that the Bearcats most dominated, other than the scoreboard, was the glass. Gary Clark and his 14 rebounds — part of his 25th career double-double — were not where it stopped. In fact, the Bearcats had 17 more rebounds than the Pirates (46-29). It was the difference on the offensive glass that may have had the greatest impact. With an offensive rebounding percentage of 55, the Bearcats nearly doubled the mark of their foes (29.4 percent). In the first half, UC had more offensive rebounds (10) than offensive (nine). Some strong play from the bench aided Clark on his mission to clear every board, as Tre Scott (seven), Nysier Brooks (five) and Eliel Nsoseme (five) each contributed more than a few.
Working harder in the paint is usually a staple of these Bearcats and it spread to more than just rebounds. With a 50-24 edge on points in the paint, UC made sure that the Pirates did not get many easy looks. For a time, ECU was able to deal with that by making more contested shots than you’d expect, but eventually, a team that’s shooting 42.6 percent from the floor on the season — including just a 27.5 percent success rate from three-point range — is going to falter. That’s exactly what happened on Saturday, as the Bearcats’ defense punished any Pirate who tried to get close to the hoop. Led by Kyle Washington (three blocks), the Bearcats rejected a total of 10 shots, including seven in the second half when the Pirates shot 30 percent from the floor.
Even as the Pirates were shooting well in the first half, they were wasting possessions by crumbling under the UC defensive pressure. Ball control is what led the Bearcats into the locker room at halftime with a lead, as there was a 9-1 discrepancy in turnovers during the first 20 minutes. On top of that, the Bearcats showed some improvement from the foul line, draining all 10 free throws they were given in the first half. A 5-for-11 showing in the second shows that there are still issues there, but a 71.4 percent (15-of-21) effort overall is pretty solid.
While the Bearcats were knocking the Pirates around, there was something noticeable about the opposing side. That was the play of redshirt freshman Shawn Williams. Mostly in the first half, Williams was pretty excellent. He finished with 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting. He has now scored 17, 22 and 15 points, respectively, over the last three games and lifted his scoring average from 7.7 points per game to 9.3. He’s a player to watch in the next few years.
But enough about the future for the Pirates, let’s finish with a last look at the present for the Bearcats. Clark had another sensational game, even if he was hampered by cold shooting in the first half (2-for-8). But perhaps less heralded in this game — if that’s even possible — was the efficient scoring work by Jacob Evans. By knocking down seven of his 12 shots, including 3-of-6 from three-point range, the junior finished with a an effective field goal percentage of 70.8. Considering he once again played more minutes than anyone (30), its good to see the guy out there the most be the most efficient as well.
Best Individual Stat Line
When you get a double-double of 14 points and 14 rebounds, you’re already doing enough. But Clark doesn’t just do enough, he goes the extra mile. He did so again in this one, adding two blocks, two steals and two assists along with zero turnovers in 26 minutes.