By Bill Koch
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Despite appearing uninspired for much of the game, the University of Cincinnati Bearcats cruised past East Carolina Wednesday night 80-57.
Jason Maxiell bulls over East Carolina's Moussa Badiane in the first half of Wednesday's game at Fifth Third Arena.|
(Ernest Coleman photo)
Eighth-ranked UC (15-1 overall, 6-1 in Conference USA) was led by James White's 15 points, which matched his UC high.
Jason Maxiell scored 14 for UC and Robert Whaley had 10.
East Carolina (8-8, 0-6) lost for the seventh straight time and ran its winless road streak in the conference to 20. The Pirates have lost 15 straight on the road overall.
UC has won its last two games by an average margin of 29 points since getting blown out by Louisville last week.
With little buzz in Fifth Third Arena from the crowd of 12,098, the heavily-favored Bearcats had trouble getting untracked against an outmanned East Carolina team that resorted to a zone defense in an attempt to slow the Bearcats' transition game and disrupt the flow of their offense.
The strategy worked for awhile. The Bearcats missed 15 of their first 19 shots and led by only four after a Moussa Badiane dunk with 11:02 left in the half.
But it was only a matter of time before UC's superior depth and athleticism wore down East Carolina.
UC was forcing turnovers early with its pressure defense, even though it didn't seem nearly as intense as it was Saturday at Southern Miss. The Pirates were simply not equipped to deal with the pressure.
White finally gave the Bearcats the jolt they needed when he nailed a 3-pointer then slammed home one of his patented dunks in transition off a feed from point guard Chadd Moore.
Tony Bobbitt then connected on a couple of treys - his only baskets of the night - to make it 26-13 with 8:09 left in the half. Before the Pirates knew what hit them, they had been outscored 17-2 over a five minute, 28-second span.
After leading by 18 at the half, the Bearcats started slowly in the second half, much the same way they had in the first, getting outscored, 7-1, at the outset, to see their lead trimmed to 12.
Still, the threat from the Pirates never appeared to be serious. The Bearcats seemed to find the scoring run they needed whenever East Carolina threatened to make it a close game.
UC surrendered 13 offensive rebounds in the first half alone, but thanks largely to the work of Kareem Johnson, still managed to outrebound the Pirates, 45-42.
After improving their free throw shooting last Saturday, the Bearcats regressed in that department. They were 8-of-15 from the line in the first half and finished 13-of-25, reminiscent of the 12-of-26 effort they produced a week earlier against Louisville.
East Carolina's zone defense eventually worked against the Pirates when UC connected on 9-of-25 3-pointers.
UC's next game is Saturday afternoon at home against Charlotte. After that, the Bearcats will begin preparations for the next Tuesday's Crosstown Shootout at Xavier.
MAXIELL FINALIST - UC forward Jason Maxiell has been named one of 30 finalists for the John Wooden award that goes to the nation's best player.
Team rebounds - 7.
Team rebounds - 2.
3-pointers - EC 5-22 (Bing 0-4, Rivers 2-9, Wiley 2-3, Cook 0-1, Robinson 0-1, Mackay 0-2), UC 9-25 (White 2-3, F.Williams 2-9, N.Williams 1-3, Moore 1-2, Bobbitt 2-6, Kirkland 1-2). Technicals - None. Officials - O'Neill, Boudreaux, Pollard. Attendance - 12,098.
No. 8 UC 80, E. Carolina 57
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