It was a startling decision for the Bearcats (12-3, 1-1 American Athletic Conference), who had won their previous three games by an average of 27.3 points. Struggles in the first half really set the Bearcats up for failure. After rattling off a 9-0 run to start the game, they ended up going into halftime trailing 36-27. A complete inability to make shots from long range kept the Bearcats at arm’s length from the Pirates. Over the course of the first 20 minutes, UC missed all 11 of their long range shots, while East Carolina netted 5-of-11.
After the break, the Bearcats looked poised to rally, as they opened the second half on a 12-2 run to take a 39-38 lead. However, whenever they pulled ahead, which happened three times in the final 20 minutes, the Pirates had an answer. In fact, the Pirates led by six points (72-66) with 20 seconds to play before the Bearcats got a three from Justin Jenifer and a pair of free throws to cut the ECU lead to two (73-71) with six seconds left. Unfortunately, Jarron Cumberland was unable to make his final shot attempt of the game and time expired, ending UC’s chances at forcing overtime.
Cumberland paced UC with 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting, while also handing out four assists. Nysier Brooks bounced back from a tough outing on Wednesday to finish with 15 points, five rebounds and three blocks. Keith Williams (13 points) was a double figure scorer in his return to the starting lineup, but he missed all three of his three-point tries. Trevon Scott nearly had a double-double (12 points, nine rebounds), while UC’s bench provided only six points.
Meanwhile, the Bearcats’ normally staunch defense was lit up by the Pirates, who shot 51.1 percent from the field and 40.9 percent from beyond the arc.
A 59 percent shooting effort in the second half nearly pushed the Bearcats to a win anyway, but wasting shots at the foul line (8-of-18) and from three (3-for-19) doomed them. They will return to the drawing board after what was supposed to be a winnable road game, as they will visit the Tulsa Golden Hurricane on Thursday in their next matchup.