TAMPA, Fla. – RJ Felton led East Carolina with 18 points but the Pirates’ second-half comeback from 23 points down ultimately fell short in Tampa on Wednesday night as ECU fell to South Florida 71-63.
Ezra Ausar added 15 points and eight rebounds for the Pirates (11-12, 2-8 AAC), who fell to under .500 for the first time this season.
Tyler Harris scored a game-high 21 points for the Bulls (10-13, 3-7 AAC) who completed their season sweep of the Pirates. Jamir Chaplin added 17 points and Russel Tchewa recorded a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
East Carolina came out of the gate on the attack, forcing the Bulls into three turnovers on their first four possessions to take an early 8-3 lead. South Florida would respond by making four of its next five shots and a Pirate scoring drought of two minutes would allow the Bulls to trim the lead to two points at 17-15 with 11:34 remaining in the first half.
The Pirates would be forced to use a timeout at the 2:59 mark after a 7-2 Bulls spurt that put ECU in a 36-30 hole. ECU would be unable to stop the bleeding before the break however, not scoring a point for the final two and a half minutes and giving up two three-pointers to face a 14-point halftime deficit.
South Florida would build on its late first-half momentum to start the second half, extending its lead to 53-32 and forcing ECU to burn another timeout with 17:59 to go in the game. The Pirates were unable to cut into the Bulls’ lead, only making two field goals in the first seven minutes of the second half.
ECU would show some fight by trimming South Florida’s lead to 11 multiple times and getting as close as seven points after a pair of Ausar free throws made it 70-63 with 44 seconds remaining but South Florida would hang on for the win.
The Pirates return home to face SMU for the first time this season on Saturday, Feb. 4 inside Minges Coliseum at 4 p.m. on ESPN+.