CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Junior forward Jayden Gardner scored 10 of his game-high 18 points in the final six minutes to lead East Carolina to a 66-57 win over Charlotte in the season opener for both teams in the first game of the 49er Tip-Off Classic.
Tristen Newton scored 15 points, while Bitumba Baruti and Tyrie Jackson added eight apiece off the bench. The Pirates shot 49.1 percent and held the 49ers to 37.7 percent, outscoring their opponent 40-22 in the paint.
ECU had six players grab at least four rebounds led by Jackson’s seven. The Pirates were 8-of-10 at the free throw line.
Newton scored 13 first half points, including nine during a 19-4 run that propelled the Pirates from down 10 (10-20) to up five (29-24) with five minutes remaining until halftime. Charlotte went on an 8-1 run to take a 32-30 lead, but Newton’s halftime buzzer beater knotted the game at 32-all at intermission.
After trading baskets during the first six minutes following halftime, Baruti put the Pirates’ ahead to stay with his first of two 3s at the 12:37 mark. ECU stretched its lead to eight over the next eight minutes and never allowed the 49ers to get closer than six the remainder of the game.
Jackson and Gardner each made a pair of free throws in the final 24 seconds to seal the Pirates’ first road win over Charlotte since 1983 and give them their 21st consecutive season opening win.
Jordan Shepherd led the 49ers with 15 points, Jhery Matos added 14 and Jahmir Young had 10.
ECU is scheduled to play its second game of the 49er Tip-Off Classic on Saturday at 3 p.m. against Division II Conference Carolinas member Belmont-Abbey. The game will be streamed on the Charlotte 49ers’ YouTube page and Pirates fans can listen locally on 94.3 FM or via the TuneIn app.