GREENVILLE — In the last game for East Carolina coach Jeff Lebo before hip surgery today, No. 22 Cincinnati topped the Pirates 55-46 in an American Athletic Conference contest Sunday in Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum.
ECU (9-10, 1-5 AAC) played its first contest without leading scorer B.J. Tyson, who was averaging 11.9 points before a knee injury against Houston on Wednesday.
“Proud of the effort,” Lebo said. “We challenged them to be physical. We challenged them to defend. We challenged them to rebound and we did that.”
Two freshmen, Elijah Hughes and Jeremy Sheppard, accounted for all of ECU’s points in the first half as Hughes scored 16 and Sheppard added seven.
The score was tied at 21 when Troy Caupain scored eight unanswered points for the Bearcats to help Cincinnati to a 31-23 halftime lead.
N.C. State transfer Kyle Washington had 10 points before the break for the visitors. Washington finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Jacob Evans III had 10 points for the Bearcats. Kevin Johnson had five points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals. Gary Clark of Clayton had eight points and nine rebounds for Cincinnati, which improved to 15-2 overall and 5-0 in the league.
Hughes had 18 points for the Pirates. Sheppard totaled 13 points. Kentrell Barkley had nine points and 10 rebounds. Andre Washington had seven rebounds and blocked five shots for ECU.
The Pirates made just 15 of their 59 field goal attempts for 25.4 percent. ECU was four of 23 beyond the arc for 17.4 percent in its fifth straight loss, all in the AAC.
“The lid will come off the basket at some point,” Lebo said.
The seventh-year Pirates coach will return to an active role at some time as well.
“Hopefully, I’ll get back as soon as I can,” Lebo said. “I don’t know the timetable on that.”
Former Richmond standout and Georgia State coach Michael Perry will guide the Pirates during Lebo’s absence.
“A lot of people have reached out and wished me good luck,” said Lebo, who has expressed confidence in the leadership ability of his staff.
The Pirates return to action on Sunday at 6 p.m. at Connecticut. That matchup will be shown on the CBS Sports Network from Hartford.