GREENVILLE, N.C. – East Carolina continued its unbeaten run inside Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum Saturday afternoon, downing Gardner-Webb 62-52 to win its sixth-straight decision inside the friendly confines.
The Pirates (7-2) took advantage of a 14-5 difference in free throws made to snap the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ (4-4) four-game winning streak. ECU also ended up out-shooting GWU by a 37.5 to 34.5-percent margin while limiting Gardner-Webb to the least amount of points scored by an opponent in this campaign.
J.J. Miles had the touch from deep in the contest, knocking down five three-point field goals to finish with a game and season-high 15 points. Brandon Suggs and Tristen Newton also reached double figures, collecting 12 points apiece. Newton extended his streak of scoring in the double digits to 12 consecutive outings. Ludgy Debaut had a monster game on the glass, pulling down a career-high 11 rebounds. Jordan Sears paced the Runnin’ Bulldogs with 12 points.
ECU out-worked Gardner-Webb in the rebounding column, ending up with a 41-32 advantage which included 10 offensive rebounds that led to nine second-chance points. The Pirates also enjoyed a 28-20 edge in the paint.
“I thought our offensive inefficiency led us to be really bad defensively in the first part of the game,” head coach Joe Dooley said. “Our effort at the end of the half really energized us. We did a much better job guarding in the first part of the second half. There were some stretches where the ball was stuck offensively. Credit Gardner-Webb for some of that with their defensive pressure. We didn’t shoot it great so that impacted us as well.”
The visitors built as much as an eight-point lead in the opening minutes, pulling ahead 12-4 at the 16:29 mark via a bucket by Ludovic Dufeal. East Carolina made a few runs in an attempt to reduce the deficit, but GWU was able to stretch the advantage to 23-14 with 8:03 left to play before the half when D’Maurian Williams dropped in a pair of free throws.
The Pirates ratcheted up the defensive pressure in the latter stages of the stanza and were able to start forcing turnovers. Suggs would make it a two-point contest with 1:26 remaining, putting in a driving layup off a turnover, before Jordan Sears converted in the paint to give the Runnin’ Bulldogs a 27-23 lead at the intermission.
ECU connected on just eight of 28 attempts (28.6 percent) from the field in the opening 20 minutes while Gardner-Webb shot the ball at a 38.5-percent clip and out-rebounded the Pirates 19-17. Sears and Lance Terry notched nine points apiece to lead all scorers.
As the second half commenced, East Carolina took its first lead of the game when Miles nailed a triple to give the Pirates a 33-31 advantage at the 16:58 mark. The teams traded buckets for the next few minutes, but the game-defining run occurred shortly thereafter. With the score in favor of ECU at 35-34 with 13:46 remaining in regulation, Tremont Robinson-White and Miles drained three pointers as part of a 10-3 run that put the Pirates up 45-37 and forced a Runnin’ Bulldog timeout.
Gardner-Webb would make a few last runs, slicing the East Carolina lead to one possession a couple of times. However, the Pirates clamped down and allowed the Runnin’ Bulldogs just three points in the final 4:29. Robinson-White and Julien Soumaro both hit threes in the final minute to account for the game’s final margin.
Up Next: ECU closes out its four-game homestand Tuesday night when it hosts North Carolina A&T at 7 p.m.