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Pirates pull upset, celebrate in Minges

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East Carolina's K.J. Davis celebrates Saturday's win against Cincinnati on Jan. 5, 2019. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, January 5, 2019

A growing trend in celebrations after big college basketball wins is for players from the winning team to wait on their coach in the locker room and spray him with water upon arrival.

After East Carolina held on to upset Cincinnati, 73-71, on Saturday in Minges Coliseum, first-year Pirate coach Joe Dooley was prepared for what he might face.

“They weren’t smart enough to realize that I had water in my hand and I got about half of them, too” said Dooley, who has experienced plenty of nationally significant victories at previous coaching gigs including at Kansas and Florida Gulf Coast. “They need to work on that.”

ECU’s players were plenty good enough the rest of the afternoon.

The upset over the Bearcats (12-3, 1-1 American Athletic Conference), a team receiving Top 25 votes that was playing only its third road game and went 1-2 in those contests, was led by the difference in 3-point shooting.

ECU (8-6, 1-1) was 9-of-22 from the 3-point arc. Shawn Williams (16 points) was 4-for-10 and K.J. Davis 3-for-5 en route to a career-high 17 points.

Cincy was 3-for-19 from beyond the arc, missing its first 11 attempts.

The visitors’ final lead was 54-53 with 8:17 left to play. Davis hit a 3 on the ensuing ECU possession and the Pirates led by as many as eight points during the final 5 minutes.

Cincinnati rallied during the final 20 seconds and trailed 73-71 when Jarron Cumberland’s final drive was halted with a block by Pirate walk-on Justice Obasohan.

“Anything could have happened, so I wasn’t completely ready to congratulate and celebrate and everything until those six seconds were over,” said Davis, who also was defending around the rim at the buzzer after Obasohan’s clutch block.

Saturday’s result, which will be viewed by a lot of people with surprise, also came after the Pirates began AAC play Wednesday with an 82-54 loss at SMU. ECU’s 73 points were the most allowed by the Bearcats this season.

“I thought the team that deserved to win won today,” said Bearcats coach Mick Cronin, who is in his 13th season at Cincinnati. “We lost the game because of our arrogance and when you are arrogant, you don’t listen to the game plan and you don’t follow the defensive scouting report. Our defense was terrible.

“We also had 15 turnovers and winning on the road requires toughness, because you are going to get everyone’s best shot.”

Cincinnati started the game on a 9-0 run, but ECU’s hot shooting guided the Pirates’ surge and the hosts led 36-27 at halftime. Their largest lead was 11 points — 36-25 — after a Davis layup at the 0:11 mark of the opening half.

Gardner had 10 rebounds before halftime and finished the game with 13 points, all in the second half, and 12 boards. Seth LeDay scored 11 and had six rebounds.

LeDay and Gardner both fouled out, including Gardner after he had made 1-of-2 free throws to give the Pirates a 73-69 lead with 13 seconds remaining.

This was ECU’s second win ever against the Bearcats, who still hold a 12-2 lead in the all-time series. Their lone meeting a season ago was an 86-60 win by Cincinnati.

“This one was big,” said Gardner, who already has six double-doubles as a freshman. “This is a new era. It’s the Dooley era.”

The Bearcats were 0-for-10 on 3-pointers during the first half. The Pirates were 5-of-11.

With many ECU students not back to campus from winter break, the announced attendance still was 4,238.

“The place was rocking,” Gardner said.

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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