Pirates rally but Bearcats hold on for win

ECU Pirates

Vance Jackson (ECU Sports Information photo)

CINCINNATI – East Carolina reduced a 20-point halftime deficit down to five in the final minutes of Wednesday night’s American Athletic Conference contest at Cincinnati, but the Bearcats had enough down the stretch to record a 79-71 victory inside Fifth-Third Arena.

The Pirates (10-5, 1-2 AAC) dropped their second straight on the road while Cincinnati (12-5, 2-2 AAC) evened its league record in advance of a meeting with Wichita State Sunday.

Vance Jackson exploded for a career and game-high 35 points on the strength of eight three-point field goals while Tristen Newton ended up with 11. Jackson fell just one rebound short of his fourth double-double of the season. Jeremiah Davenport led the Bearcats with 22 points and six rebounds.

After a hot-shooting first half, Cincinnati cooled down after the break but still recorded a 48-percent showing by hitting 28 of 59 attempts. East Carolina finished the night at 41 percent (24 of 59). The Pirates ended up outrebounding the home team by one, 35-34. The Bearcats netted 20 points off 15 East Carolina turnovers and outscored the Pirates in the paint by a 32-24 margin.

Cincinnati knocked down three of its first five from the floor to take a quick 12-4 advantage just over four minutes into the contest. ECU was unable to find its footing as the first half wore on as the Bearcats extended their lead to 25-8 via a pair of Mika Adams-Woods free throws at the 10:07 mark. Cincinnati would continue its hot shooting and entered the intermission up by 20 at 49-29.

The Bearcats fired at a 59-percent clip from the field in the opening 20 minutes, connecting on 17 of 29 attempts, while limiting East Carolina to 35-percent efficiency. The teams ended up even in the rebounding column at 16 apiece, but Cincinnati forced the Pirates into nine turnovers and scored 14 points off those miscues. Jackson paced all scorers with 13 points.

ECU exited the locker room on a mission and outscored the home side 15-6 over the first seven minutes of the stanza to pull within 55-44. Jackson continued to take over from there, crossing the 30-point plateau with 7:14 remaining in the contest and putting the Pirates down just eight at 64-56.

East Carolina made one last push, cutting the Bearcat lead to 68-63 via a Newton bucket and free throw with 3:16 to play. That was as close as the Pirates would come, however, as Cincinnati kept ECU at an arm’s length the rest of the way.

Up Next: East Carolina returns home this Saturday for an American Athletic Conference contest versus Memphis.

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