GREENVILLE, N.C. – Brandon Johnson scored a career-high 27 points on 8-of-12 shooting as East Carolina outlasted SMU 77-72 on Saturday afternoon at Williams Arena in Minges Coliseum.
Ezra Ausar recorded his first career double-double with 19 points and 13 rebounds, both of which were career marks and RJ Felton added 18 points in 40 minutes played for the Pirates (12-12, 3-8 AAC). Jaden Walker turned in a strong performance running the point as he dished out a career-high eight assists and only committed two turnovers.
Zhuric Phelps led the Mustangs (8-16, 3-8 AAC) with 23 points and Zach Nutall added 18 points on 3-of-7 shooting from behind the arc.
After SMU scored the first basket of the game, the Pirates made their first five shots from the floor to take a 13-5 lead and force a 30-second timeout from the Mustangs at the 16:15 mark of the first half. ECU would push its lead to as much as 13 points due in large part to 6-of-7 shooting from downtown. SMU would cut the lead to single digits, going into the half down 40-32 after a last-second three-pointer by Nutall.
The Pirates would keep the Mustangs at bay for the first part of the second half, but SMU would mount its comeback with a 10-1 run to take its only its second lead of the game at 53-52 with 10:57 remaining. Johnson would go on a personal 8-0 scoring run to push the Pirates back in front 60-53 and bring the Minges crowd to its feet.
SMU would eventually knot the game up at 67 with 1:53 remaining on a dunk from Phelps but Quentin Diboundje would sink two free throws at the other end to put ECU back in front. ECU would go 6-for-6 down the stretch at the free throw line and Walker came up with a massive block on a Nutall three-point attempt to get the Pirates back in the win column.
The Pirates will enjoy a six-day break before their next game at Tulane on Saturday, Feb. 11 at 2 p.m. on ESPN+.