ECU holds off Old Dominion, 73-60; will face Davidson in 5th-place game Sunday

ECU Pirates

Brandon Johnson (ECU Sports Information photo)

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CONWAY, S.C. – Freshman Brandon Johnson scored a near double-double of 16 points and nine rebounds Friday night as East Carolina defeated Old Dominion 73-60 on day two of the Myrtle Beach Invitational inside Coastal Carolina University’s HTC Center.

The Pirates (4-1) will take on Davidson (2-2) in the tournament’s fifth-place game Sunday at 6 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on ESPNU.

East Carolina never trailed in the contest and held the lead for more than 38 minutes.

“It was a game like we expected,” head coach Joe Dooley said. “I knew Old Dominion had a rough one last night and that’s not who they are as a program. We knew they were going to bounce back, and they did. They did some things that put us in harm’s way, but I thought the guys responded. We had a couple of stretches, once in the first half and once in the second half where we lost our minds a little bit on the offensive end and took some ill-advised shots early in the shot clock, but once we settled down defensively, we did some good things.”

Tristen Newton paced ECU in scoring once again with 18 points to go along with six assists and three steals. Brandon Suggs also ended up in double digits offensively at 10 points. Kalu Ezipke led the Monarchs with 16 points and eight rebounds.

For the third-straight outing, the Pirates were better than 50 percent from the floor – knocking down 25 of 46 attempts (54.3 percent). ODU connected on 20 of 51 for a game total of 39.2 percent. The Monarchs also held the edge in total rebounds by a slight 31-28 margin, but East Carolina’s bench helped out by contributing 29 points.

Vance Jackson nailed a triple off a turnover to afford the Pirates a 5-0 lead just 1:29 into the evening. A turnaround jumper by Ludgy Debaut stretched the upper hand to 9-2 at the 17:05 mark, but the Monarchs rattled off a 11-4 run over the next few minutes to knot the score at 13.

ECU clamped down defensively from there, allowing Old Dominion just three points in seven minutes, all while building a double-digit cushion. A three by J.J. Miles off the fast break propelled the Pirates in front 24-14 before East Carolina grabbed its biggest advantage of the night at 34-17 thanks to a pair of free throws by Newton with 4:34 left in the half. The Monarchs were able to slice their deficit to single digits just once before the break.

The Pirates produced 50-percent efficiency from the field in the initial 20 minutes, draining 14 of 28 from the floor while also a quartet of three-pointers. ODU hit nine of its 24 attempts (37.5 percent). Johnson topped all players with 10 points in the stanza.

The Monarchs went on a bit of a run out of the intermission, drawing within 51-46 with 12:12 on the clock following a C.J. Keyser jumper. ECU had the answer though, extending the lead back to double figures at 62-52 when Newton stole the ball and laid it in with 7:22 remaining in regulation.

Newton was true again at the 5:01 mark, dropping in a bucket to push the Pirates ahead 66-55. He then nailed a three with under three minutes remaining to make it a 14-point margin as Old Dominion never threatened again.

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