GREENVILLE, N.C. – Down nine points with under eight minutes to play, East Carolina ended the game on a 19-9 run to record a 68-67 non-conference victory over Southern Miss Tuesday afternoon inside Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum.
The Pirates (9-3) remained undefeated in Greenville and are off the first 8-0 start at home since the 2000-01 campaign. ECU also recorded nine non-conference wins for the first time since the 2013-14 squad collected 11. Meanwhile, the Golden Eagles (4-8) dropped to 0-6 on the road in 2021-22.
Tristen Newton tallied a game-best 22 points and has scored in double figures in 15-straight contests. Vance Jackson chipped with 15 points and Brandon Suggs used a strong second-half effort to end up with 11. Jaron Pierre, Jr. paced Southern Miss with 20 points.
East Carolina shot the ball well in the second frame, hitting 16 of 29 attempts (55.2 percent) while ending up at 39.7 percent for the day (39.7 percent). The Golden Eagles finished at exactly 50 percent (28 of 56) from the floor, but were awarded just three free throw attempts – all of which they hit.
The Pirates enjoyed the upper hand in the rebounding column by a 34-32 margin and scored 10 second-chance points as a result of 13 offensive boards. ECU also pocketed seven steals and forced Southern Miss into 14 turnovers.
“We had bits of excellence but also bits of poor play,” head coach Joe Dooley said. “We’ve got to get more consistent. We got some stops there at the end, but I thought Southern Miss played really hard. Those guys gave us some problems. We were sluggish offensively but made some plays. We definitely have things to clean up before conference play starts.”
East Carolina started the game active on the offensive glass and built a 13-7 advantage thanks in large part to six second-chance points. The Pirates continued to lock down defensively, holding Southern Miss scoreless over the next seven minutes to establish a 14-9 cushion with 8:43 to play before the break.
A layup by Newton afforded ECU its largest lead of the day at 23-12, however, the Golden Eagles responded with a 14-1 run to push ahead 26-24 at the 2:40 mark. In all, Southern Miss knocked down seven of its last eight from the floor to take a 31-26 advantage into the intermission.
The Pirates struggled to shoot the ball in the initial 20 minutes, hitting just seven of 29 for 24.1 percent. Conversely, the Golden Eagles fired at a 48.1-percent clip (13 of 27), outrebounded ECU 21-17 and scored 11 points off six East Carolina turnovers. Pierre, Jr. led all scorers with 13 points in the period while Newton dropped in 10 for the homestanding Pirates.
ECU started quick out of the break, scoring six of the first eight points to slice the Golden Eagle upper hand to 33-32. Southern Miss continued in its attempt to pull away as six-straight points saw the visitors go in front by eight. The Pirates were able to answer back as a driving layup by Newton sparked an 8-2 run that reduced the deficit to 47-45.
After the Golden Eagles scored an old-fashioned three-point play via DeAndre Pinckney to take a nine-point edge, East Carolina hit all six of its next field goal attempts to vault back in front, 64-63 with just over three minutes to play. A sprint to the finish ensued as the lead changed four times in the final 3:20. Following a layup by Jackson that ended up being the winning bucket, Southern Miss had one last chance with 10 seconds to play. Pierre found himself open from beyond the arc but could not convert as J.J. Miles corralled the rebound. After Suggs missed the front end of a one and one, the Golden Eagles had one last desperation heave from behind midcourt that was off target as time expired.
ECU opens American Athletic Conference play Dec. 29 at home against Wichita State.