Late Rally Propels Pirates Past Bearcats

GREENVILLE, N.C. — ECU (9-12, 2-6 AAC) rallied from behind to capture its first ever win against Cincinnati (15-6, 6-3 AAC) 50-46 at Minges Coliseum Sunday.

The East Carolina men’s basketball team trailed by seven points with under four minutes remaining against an opponent, Cincinnati, it had never beaten — losing its previous eight meetings — who had already notched double-figure wins against NCAA Tournament hopefuls Connecticut, N.C. State and San Diego State this season.

Despite all this, the Pirates closed the game on an 11-0 run to outlast the Bearcats 50-46 at Minges Coliseum behind the play of their recently stifling defense and freshman guard B.J. Tyson.

Tyson, who entered Sunday averaging as the Pirates’ (9-12, 2-6 AAC) third-leading scorer with 11.8 points per game, supplied 16 of his game-high 18 points in the second half — including a go-ahead layup with 62 seconds to go — to break out of a three-game slump in which he had only mustered seven points combined.

“His nickname was ‘Corn,’” fifth-year ECU coach Jeff Lebo said he called Tyson during his slump. “I go to the buffet line and I’m expecting all this food when I put you in the game, and all you have been giving me is corn the last three games. He told me afterwards I had all the meat, potatoes and every vegetable alive today.”

Senior point guard Antonio Robinson led the charge in holding the Bearcats (15-6, 6-3 AAC), who were three days removed from a 70-58 victory against reigning national-champion UConn and had beaten ECU 69-48 on Jan. 14, without a field goal in the final eight minutes, 39 seconds of the game and to their lowest scoring output of the season.

At the head of the Pirates’ 2-3 zone defense, Robinson collected five of ECU’s eight steals and constantly disrupted Cincinnati’s talented group of guards — directly resulting in the visitor’s 12 turnovers. On the other end of the floor, Robinson, 6-foot-4, 180 pounds, dished out four assists to one turnover and, as a team, the Pirates assisted on 17 of their 21 made-baskets with just seven giveaways.

“(Robinson) was terrific. Again, he didn’t score a point in the game and we had to have him in, defensively, at the end of the game,” Lebo said. “He got deflections, five steals, took care of the ball and in that zone, he was terrific. He works so hard.”

Robinson added, “Somebody had to do something on the defensive end. I got in and tried to be active since I’m long at the top. I just tried to get my hand on every ball, just out there flying around trying to get loose balls.”

ECU’s leading scorer, Terry Whisnant, didn’t reach the score sheet until about seven minutes left in the game, but the last pair of his four points tied the game —46-46 — at the 1:47 mark following a Robinson steal. Sophomore Caleb White also finished with four points, as the duo finished 0-for-9 combined on 3-point attempts, but hit two key free throws to cap the Pirates’ 11-0 run and subsequently, put the game away.

The Bearcats had two players score into double figures on their way to a season-low 16 made-field goals (16-of-45). Octavious Ellis had a team-high 14 points to go along with a game-high 14 rebounds.

Up next, ECU will face UConn in Storrs, CT. Wednesday night. Tip-off time is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Gampell Pavilion and the game will be broadcast on ESPNU.

“What basketball is about, especially in this league now, you get Cincinnati at home and get a big win, you get to go (play) to the defending national champions on the road,” said Lebo. “It’ll be fun.”

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