Minges cakewalk fails to
materialize for Bearcats
Cincinnati's Jihad Muhammad (13) dishes off the ball while being defended by
East Carolina's Japhet McNeil (10). [AP Photo: Karl DeBlaker]
By The Associated Press
GREENVILLE This was not
the way Bob Huggins wanted Cincinnati to head into a difficult stretch
of the schedule.
Jason Maxiell had 24
points and eight rebounds Wednesday night to help the 18th-ranked
Bearcats hold off East Carolina 84-78, a win that saw the Bearcats
alternate between dominant and disinterested while nearly blowing a
20-point second-half lead on the Pirates hostile homecourt.
Eric Hicks added 12 points
for the Bearcats (14-1, 3-0 Conference USA), who have won three straight
since losing to top-ranked Illinois. Jihad Muhammad also had 12 points
and several key plays to help the Bearcats turn away rallies by East
Carolina (5-10, 0-3).
Corey Rouse had 21 points
and 13 rebounds for the Pirates, who fell to 0-7 all-time against the
Bearcats. Mike Cook added 19 points.
The Bearcats have to hope
this was an aberration heading into Saturday's game with No. 19
Louisville. That opens a three-game homestand that includes Charlotte
a conference opponent that made the NCAA tournament last year and No.
4 Wake Forest.
``I didn't want to have to
go back and try to fix things two days before we play Louisville,'' said
Huggins, who declined to elaborate. ``I was hoping that the light had
come on, that we knew what we had to do, but that's apparently not the
``When you have to spend
your time fixing things, that takes away from your time to prepare.''
Cincinnati needed a bit of
time to take control of the game, with the Pirates thanks partly to a
rowdy home crowd hanging in for most of the first half. But once their
defense stepped up, the Bearcats had several transition scores to build
a double-digit lead.
That lead which grew to
20 points early in the second half ultimately held up, though the
feisty Pirates fought the entire way. They outrebounded the Bearcats
47-32 and cut the deficit to four points in the final 90 seconds, but
could not get closer.
The Pirates twice were
called for technical fouls in response to fouls by Bearcats defenders,
which seemed to illustrate a we-won't-back-down mentality.
It just didn't amount to a
win for a struggling team.
``We don't know how to
play 40 minutes right now,'' ECU coach Bill Herrion said. ``It's not a
moral victory by any stretch.''
The difference proved to
be Cincinnati's 20 points off 14 turnovers in the first half, which
helped the Bearcats shoot 55 percent and build a 46-32 halftime lead. It
reached 57-37 on a two-handed slam by Hicks off a nifty feed from James
White with 16:40 left.
``I guess mentally we just
got real comfortable with the lead,'' Muhammad said. ``We've got to keep
it on for 40 minutes, get them out of here so they have ... no thought
in their mind or taste in their mouth that they can beat us.''
The Pirates did their
part, refusing to let the Bearcats speed out of sight. East Carolina
committed just four turnovers and shot 47 percent in the second half.
They also played scrappy defense, holding Cincinnati to 41 percent
shooting after the break.
``It's the biggest game of
the year for them, so they came out with more energy than we did in the
second half,'' said Maxiell, who went 10-for-17 from the floor and had
three blocks. ``We're upset. Our effort in the second half wasn't as
great as it should've been.''
Trailing 78-68 with about
3 minutes left, Japhet McNeil drove inside for a score. Then Rouse
completed a three-point play when he was fouled on a layup in transition
to cut the deficit to 78-73.
The Pirates' defense then
got a stop, but in what became a recurring theme of missed chances
Cook missed a layup off a long pass. Rouse rebounded and was fouled, but
went only 1-for-2 from the line to pull to 78-74 with 1:32 to play.
White then hit two free
throws on the other end for a six-point lead, and the Pirates got no
closer than five points the rest of the way.
Muhammad made several key
plays to hold off East Carolina runs.
After a three-point play
by Hicks gave the Bearcats a 64-53 lead, Muhammad had a one-handed steal
of the ensuing inbounds pass and hit two free throws to increase the
margin to 13. A few minutes later, he drained a straightaway 3-pointer
that gave Cincinnati a 77-66 lead with about 4 minutes left.
``I think we started
believing we could win the game,'' Cook said. ``But you have to take
that approach when you come out of the locker room.''
ECU's next game is
Saturday when the Pirates host another conference rival, UAB.
Tip off for the game is 1 p.m.
CINCINNATI 84, EAST CAROLINA 78
Records: ECU 5-10, 0-3
C-USA; Cincinnati 14-1, 3-0
Halftime: Cincinnati 46-32
Name FG FT
Maxiell 10-17 4-10
Totals 29-60 21-32
Name FG FT
Totals 29-63 19-28
3-Point goals: Cincinnati
5-16 (Bright 1-1, Kirkland 1-2, White 1-3, Muhammad 1-4,
Williams 1-4, Moore 0-2); East Carolina 1-10 (Rouse 1-2, Kilgore
0-1, King 0-1, Castro 0-2, McNeil 0-2, Cook 0-2).
Fouled out: Kirkland,
Rebounds: Cincinnati 32 (Maxiell
8); East Carolina 47 (Rouse 13).
Assists: Cincinnati 19
(Muhammad 7); East Carolina 15 (McNeil, Cook 4).
Total fouls: Cincinnati 23;
East Carolina 24.
Technical fouls: Rouse, McNeil.
02/23/07 10:56 AM
The Associated Press. All
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Bonesville.net contributed to this report.