FORT WORTH, Texas – No. 8 seed Cincinnati used a 12-0 game-ending run to defeat No. 9 seed East Carolina 74-63 in the first round of the Air Force Reserve American Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Championship Thursday afternoon at Dickies Arena.
The Pirates end the 2021-22 campaign with a 15-15 overall record while the Bearcats snap a five-game losing streak and improve to 18-14.
In a game that featured 16 lead changes and was tied 14 times, Cincinnati’s David DeJulius hit a long two to give the Bearcats a 66-63 lead with 1:49 left after the Bearcats had grabbed two offensive rebounds to extend the possession. After that, ECU missed its last five shots and Cincinnati drained eight free throws to close out the game.
“I think obviously points off turnovers was a big key today,” head coach Joe Dooley said. “At the end, they go an 18-5 run to finish the game which, you know, we had some good looks. We had times we needed to get some stops and wrap up possession; we didn’t. Give Cincinnati credit for making some plays. Davenport made a couple of big plays. Saunders made a couple of big plays. We answered some and didn’t answer others.”
Tristen Newton scored a game-high 26 points, becoming the 33rd player in program history to record 1,000 in the process, while Vance Jackson notched a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds in his final appearance in a Pirate uniform. Newton’s scoring output tied for the most points by a Pirate in an American Conference Championship contest since Kentrell Barkley tallied 26 versus Temple in 2017. DeJulius led three Bearcats in double figures offensively with 22 points.
East Carolina hit 42 percent of its shots from the field as compared to Cincinnati’s 41-percent effort, but the Bearcats outrebounded the Pirates 35-32 and hit 10 three-point field goals while forcing ECU into 12 turnovers off which Cincinnati scored 21 points. East Carolina finished the afternoon 12 for 12 from the free throw line.
The Pirates held a 41-40 lead at the half thanks to a triple by Jackson with 40 seconds left on the clock. ECU was ahead by as much as five in the opening 20 minutes when a Ludgy Debaut dunk made the score 30-25 at the 5:33 mark. East Carolina shot 60 percent in the first half, draining 15 of 25 from the floor. Newton scored 15 of his 26 in the initial stanza.