Pirates set to host 12-2 Bearcats
By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector
Saturday, January 5, 2019
East Carolina’s undersized and young basketball team was dealt a harsh blow in its first American Athletic Conference game of the season and its second game in the league will also be a difficult test against a big and physical opponent.
ECU (7-6, 0-1 American) welcomes in Cincinnati, which has been one of the most consistent AAC teams so far with a 12-2 record that includes beating Tulane 93-61 on Wednesday. Also on Wednesday, the Pirates began their league slate with an 82-54 runaway loss at SMU.
With many students not yet back on campus from winter break, the Pirates have been offering $5 lower-bowl tickets for today’s 1 p.m. tip-off. It is the second straight home game that ECU has offered those discounted tickets.
“It was great to have all those fans out there,” freshman forward Jayden Gardner said after the Pirates beat North Carolina A&T 77-57 on Dec. 28 with a crowd of 4,761 in Minges Coliseum.
ECU was in the lead for 7:42 of the first half against SMU, then the favored Mustangs took over by starting the second half on a 17-1 run and totaling 47 points after intermission.
Gardner (18.8 points per game for the season) scored 16 points and freshman bench player Tyler Foster was second on the Pirates with 11. Guard K.J. Davis also saw a lot of action off the bench, playing 28 minutes and scoring six points on 2-of-4 shooting from 3-point range.
But SMU cruised to the win thanks to a 42-26 advantage in points in the paint and 30-18 on the fast break.
“We need to fix this very quickly,” ECU coach Joe Dooley said during his postgame interview on the Pirate IMG Network. “I liked the start of it and liked the tempo, but then I really can’t tell you what went wrong. ... This is a really good league and I think our young guys got a taste and a look at what really good teams look like, and that’s something we need to figure out and the younger guys hadn’t seen that kind of athleticism and caliber of a team.”
Dooley added that he is looking for his Pirates to be more stingy on defense and better in rebounding.
Cincinnati is first in the AAC in scoring defense, rebounding defense and is second in blocked shots per game. Its leading scorer is 6-foot-6 guard Jarron Cumberland with a 16.6 ppg average. Post player Tre Scott is averaging 9.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per outing.
This will be only the Bearcats’ third road game of the season.
East Carolina’s women’s team begins its American Athletic Conference schedule today at Tulane, which has won four straight in the series against the Pirates.
ECU has been off since it couldn’t close out UNC Wilmington and lost 71-68 to UNCW in Greenville on Dec. 30. Nicole Mealing is 0-2 as acting head coach for the Pirates (9-4).
Tulane (10-3) is on a three-game win streak and recorded victories against LSU and Washington during a 3-0 start to its campaign.
Contact Ronnie Woodward at email@example.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.