FORT WORTH, Texas — For the third time in as many meetings, UCF built a first half double-digit lead to defat East Carolina in the first round of the 2020 American Athletic Conference Championship on Thursday night, 72-62.
With the victory UCF (11-11) advanced to the tournament quarterfinals against Memphis on Friday, while the Pirates end their season with an overall record of 8-11.
ECU junior forward Jayden Gardner scored a game-high 17 points, while also grabbing a game-high nine rebounds. Brandon Suggs added 14 points off the bench and Tristen Newton finished with 13 points and five assists.
Gardner became the 11 player in school history and fifth in conference lore to surpass the 700 mark for career rebounds (705), while ending the season No. 12 all-time on The American career scoring list (1,462 points).
As they did in each of the first two meetings of the season against UCF, the Pirates fell behind by double digits in the first half, trailing by 11 before entering the halftime locker room down by nine, 36-27.
ECU redshirt junior Ludgy Debaut scored the game’s opening basket before the Knights went on a 10-run, getting 10 points from Darius Perry, to take the lead which they never relinquished.
UCF shot 54.2 percent from the field in the opening half and made 5-of-12 outside the 3-point arc, finishing with a final shooting percentage of 47.2 and 6-of-19 beyond the arc.
The Pirates, who were 3-of-16 shooting from 3 and shot just 41.0 percent overall, pulled within four at 24-20 with 6:36 left before halftime, but that is as close as they got.
UCF’s lead peaked at 16, 66-50, with 4:31 remaining.
Perry paced the Knights with 15 points while Darian Green, Jr. And Avery Diggs added 12 points each. Brandon Mahan and Jamile Reynolds netted 10 points apiece.