GREENVILLE, N.C. – Facing off against South Florida for the second time in six days, East Carolina allowed the Bulls just six points in the final 6:42 to capture a 64-60 American Athletic Conference victory inside Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum.
The Pirates (14-13, 5-10 AAC) wrapped up a season series sweep of USF (7-20, 2-13 AAC) for the third time (2004, 2018). ECU also gave head coach Joe Dooley his 100th victory at the helm of the program.
“I thought South Florida played really hard,” Dooley said. “Each game starts out at 0-0 and our guys needed to realize what we did previously against them didn’t matter. We made some boneheaded plays late in the game but thankfully we shot it well at the free throw line.”
Brandon Suggs and Tristen Newton paced the Pirates offensively with 15 points apiece while Tremont Robinson-White chipped in with 13 of his own. Ludgy Debaut continued his recent strong play on the glass, pulling down 10 rebounds (four offensive). Russel Tchewa scored a team-high 18 for the Bulls who lost their sixth in a row.
South Florida made 25 of 63 attempts from the field to shoot 39.7 percent while limiting ECU to 34.8-percent (16 of 46) efficiency. Despite the disparity in shots made, the Pirates drained a season-high 28 free throws off of 26 USF personal fouls. The Bulls outrebounded East Carolina 43-34 but turned the ball over 16 times which led to 17 Pirate points.
Suggs hit three free throws at the 14:15 mark of the first half to give ECU a 10-6 advantage. The lead grew all the way to 19-12 when Robinson-White notched a pair at the line with 8:18 remaining in the period, but an 8-1 South Florida run made it a one-point contest as time ticked down. The Pirates would end up staying in front for the rest of the stanza. However, an offensive rebound and dunk by Corey Walker Jr. left East Carolina with a slim 35-34 upper hand entering the break.
The visitors shot the ball at a 42.9-percent clip from the field in the opening 20 minutes and held a 22-16 advantage in the rebounding column. Both teams turned the ball over eight times. Tchewa led all scorers with 10 points to go along with five rebounds.
Robinson-White got the free throw line and collected a pair of points just 12 seconds into the second half before Vance Jackson knocked down a triple to make the score 42-37. The Bulls refused to fold, grabbing a 45-43 lead on a Walker Jr. pull-up jumper at the 13:09 mark.
Points were hard to come by for both squads as the half rolled on, but Tchewa dropped in a free throw with 6:42 remaining to put his team up 54-50. ECU made one last defensive stand, holding South Florida to just two points over the next five minutes and change. Meanwhile, the Pirates ripped off a 10-0 run to take command by a 60-54 margin with 1:51 to play. The Bulls were able to draw within two in the final minute. However, East Carolina was true on its final four free-throw attempts to seal the victory.
Up Next: East Carolina officially wraps up its home slate Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. versus Tulsa.