When the Bearcats took a 19-17 lead with 10:40 left in the first half on a jump shot by Roy Bright, they never again trailed the Pirates. However, they never exactly had it easy either.
After making several first half runs that East Carolina answered with a comparable run of their own, the Bearcats went on a 19-6 run in the last eight minutes of the first half to run the score to 46-32 at the half.
Cincinnati even opened the second half with a quick 11-5 run, and it looked like a healthy 19-point advantage (57-37) would hold up for an easy victory.
But the Pirates had other thoughts.
East Carolina raced to a 12-0 run over the next two minutes forcing the Bearcats to call a timeout, and cutting the lead to just eight, 57-49.
"Our defense was very poor tonight," a very concerned Huggins said in his post-game show on 700 WLW. "Every time we had a chance to put the game away, we got lazy and gave them too many opportunities to get back in the game."
The Bearcats extended the lead back out to as many as 15 points, but East Carolina again chipped away, and pulled to within as close as four points (78-74) with just 2:06 left.
Fortunately for Cincinnati, East Carolina missed several opportunities in the final two minutes, including three missed free throws, and was able to preserve the victory on the road.
East Carolina out-rebounded Cincinnati 47-32 for the game, something Huggins was not pleased with.
"You can't get out-rebounded by 15 and expect to win," he said. "You're very fortunate to go on the road and come back alive after a game like this."
Corey Rouse, a 6-8 junior forward for the Pirates was a big thorn in the side of the Bearcats on the boards. Rouse threw in 21 points, and grabbed 13 rebounds, including five on the offensive end.
It still came down to defensive effort and performance.
"We've got to be smart enough to learn from this. We were atrocious defensively," Huggins added. "We turned them back to the basket time after time after time. We just didn't stop them."
Cincinnati (14-1, 3-0 C-USA) returns home to a sold out Fifth Third Arena on Saturday for a 1:00 PM tip-off against conference rival, Louisville.