TAMPA, Fla. – East Carolina captured its second-straight American Athletic Conference road win Thursday night, defeating South Florida 65-57 inside the Yuengling Center.
Coupled with last week’s victory at Tulsa, the Pirates (13-12, 4-9 AAC) have notched consecutive league road triumphs for the first time since the 2015-16 campaign.
“We shot the ball and guarded well tonight,” head coach Joe Dooley said. “The guys stepped up, made some free throws and took care of the ball late in the game. We are working towards playing our best basketball here near the end of the regular season.”
Vance Jackson led four ECU players in double figures offensively, scoring 16 points to go along with four rebounds. Tristen Newton, Brandon Suggs and Tremont Robinson-White added 14, 13 and 10 respectively while Newton set a career high with 10 assists for his first double-double of the season and second of his career. Serrell Smith Jr. paced the home side with 18 points.
The Pirates finished the evening at 45 percent (20 of 44) from the floor and limited South Florida to 34-percent (21 of 61) efficiency. ECU also outrebounded the Bulls 37-29 and outscored South Florida 26-20 in the paint while hitting 20 of 24 (83 percent) from the free throw line.
East Carolina got off to a great start defensively, holding South Florida to 14 percent shooting from the field in the first couple of minutes. The Bulls were able to keep within striking distance for much of the period thanks to hitting six of 12 from three-point range.
Neither squad held more than a four-point advantage throughout as the Pirates settled for a 26-22 advantage at the 2:13 mark after a Suggs free throw. South Florida hit three buckets in the final 1:47 of the half to slice the ECU lead to 29-28 at the break.
Jackson and Suggs tallied eight points apiece to pace the Pirates offensively while Smith Jr. netted 12 for the Bulls on the strength of a quartet of three-point field goals. East Carolina outshot South Florida from the field, knocking down 42 percent (11 of 26) of their attempts as compared to the home team’s 33-percent (11 of 33). The Bulls outrebounded the Pirates 19-18 and the squads combined for 16 turnovers.
Ludgy Debaut gave ECU a 31-30 advantage early in the second half before a Jackson triple afforded the Pirates a 42-34 cushion with 11:15 remaining in regulation. East Carolina kept South Florida at an arm’s length the rest of the way, never letting the lead slip under five until the final minute. A pair of free throws by Newton put ECU ahead by double digits at 59-49 and the Pirates salted the game away from there.
Up Next: East Carolina makes the short trip from Tampa to Orlando for a Sunday afternoon affair versus UCF. Tipoff is slated for 2 p.m.