GREENVILLE — The nation’s No. 1 team looked deserving of their ranking as Houston took a 76-57 American Athletic Conference win at East Carolina on Saturday night.
The Cougars limited ECU to 12 percent shooting (3 for 25) in building a 36-19 halftime lead.
Houston improved to 27-2 overall and 15-1 in the AAC, assuring the league’s regular-season championship.
The Pirates skipped to 14-14 for the season and are 5-10 in the American going into Senior Night against Tulane on Wednesday (ESPNU, 9 p.m.). The Green Wave is 17-8 overall and 10-4 in the AAC going into a home game Sunday against Wichita State (ESPNU, 3 p.m.).
The Cougars got out to a 7-0 lead and never trailed on their last hoops trip to Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum before a sellout crowd of 7,589. Houston will become a member of the Big 12 on July 1.
“The bottom line is this,” said ECU coach Mike Schwartz on the Pirate radio network. “They’re the best rebounding team in the country and they’re the best defensive team in the country.”
The Cougars had a 48-28 rebounding advantage.
ECU trimmed a 45-22 deficit with just over 16 minutes left down to 15 points, at 50-35, with 11:37 to play before Houston regrouped for its biggest lead at 71-47 with 4:29 remaining.
Marcus Sasser had 22 points for the Cougars. Tramon Mark had 20 points and nine rebounds.
J’Wan Roberts added 17 points and 12 rebounds for the visitors.
ECU was paced by 15 points and eight rebounds from Ezra Ausar. The Pirates got 13 points and four assists from R.J. Felton. Brandon Johnson added 12 points and Jaden Walker scored nine.
ECU covered the betting line which favored Houston by 20.5 points.
The Pirates made some adjustments which allowed them to hit 13 of 25 field goal attempts in the second half for 52 percent. ECU made six of 11 from beyond the arc in the final 20 minutes for 54.5 percent.
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