by Taylor Bergfeld
After coming up short in Memphis on Sunday, the Bearcats returned home on Wednesday evening to take on a feisty ECU Pirates Squad. The Bearcats were victorious 79-71 and improved to 12-5 (2-2) in the AAC on the year. It was a true “tale of two halves” for the Bearcats as they had an offensive explosion in the first half pushing their lead to 20 points, and taking a 49-29 lead into halftime.
The Bearcats were led in the 1st half by Jeremiah Davenport and Mason Madsen both chipping in 9 points respectfully. The Bearcats motion offense provided problems for the Pirates as they shot 58.6% from the field and 6-11 from 3 in the first half. I was thoroughly impressed with Mikey Saunders, he pushed the tempo for Coach Miller and generated opportunities for his big men. Mason Madsen was a nice spark off the bench, the sharp-shooting sophomore hit 3 big 3’s and chirped the ECU bench after each make. Madsen continuing to find his shot in AAC Play bodes well for the Bearcats as he will help the Bearcats with spacing and allow Saunders and Davenport to continue to attack the rim.
The second half was night and day different from the first, the Bearcats were sluggish and went a combined 1-9 from the field to start the half. It was ECU’s Vance Jackson who put the team on his back and scored 22 of his game-high 35 points causing all sorts of matchup issues for the Bearcats. The 20 point lead evaporated and the Cats found themselves in a dog fight with just under 8:00 to play. It was then when Mika Adams-Woods found David DeJulius on a backdoor cut that led to a Hayden Koval dunk that had Fifth Third Arena rocking. The Bearcats were able to withstand Jackson and the Pirates run and closed out the game on an emphatic John Newman III one-handed tomahawk dunk.
The key for the Bearcats is to maintain the same energy for all 40 minutes of the game. Mikey Saunders was fantastic tonight as he only had 2 points, but 8 assists and 1 turnover for the Sophomore from Indianapolis. Up next for the Bearcats is a huge test as they travel to Wichita State on Sunday to take on the Shockers. Coach Wes Miller stated on his post-game show that he “Loves the opportunities that the AAC presents” the Bearcats will be ready for a hostile environment as they continue to try to bolster their resume for an NCAA Tournament appearance.
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