GREENVILLE, N.C. – East Carolina shot lights out in the first half of Sunday’s bout with in-state opponent Western Carolina, easily disposing of the Catamounts 95-79 inside Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum.
The Pirates (3-0), who captured their 13th-straight non-conference victory, scored the most points of head coach Joe Dooley’s tenure at ECU. Western Carolina (1-2) led for only 22 seconds in dropping its second straight.
Tristen Newton exploded for a career-high 30 points while also pacing the squad in rebounds (six) and assists (six). Brandon Suggs collected 15 points and six boards of his own and Tremont Robinson-White contributed 14 points and five steals in 21 minutes off of the bench. Nick Robinson led the visitors with 28 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
The Catamounts finished the contest shooting 41.3 percent (26-for-63) while also holding a slight edge in the rebounding column by a 37-33 margin. East Carolina hit 34 of 66 from the floor to end up firing at a 51.5-percent clip. ECU forced 19 Western Carolina turnovers, converting those miscues into 25 points, and outscored the Catamounts 48-18 in the paint.
A pair of quick buckets by Ludgy Debaut and Vance Jackson gave the Pirates an early 4-0 cushion just 1:09 into the game. A triple by Robinson afforded Western a brief 6-4 lead with 17:35 on the clock, but Jackson answered right away with a driving layup to knot the score.
The teams traded runs over the next few minutes as East Carolina owned a 17-16 edge with 12:02 to play in the frame, but the Pirates quickly seized control by scoring 16 of the next 19 points. The Catamounts could not slice the deficit under double figures and a layup by J.J. Miles saw ECU claim a 21-point lead at 43-22 with time winding down. The Pirates had the last word of the half as Suggs stole the ball and found Robinson-White for a bucket with four seconds remaining.
East Carolina knocked down an astonishing 22 of 32 attempts from the field in the first half and recorded 17 assists on those buckets to build a 26-point halftime advantage – the highest of the Dooley era. The Pirates also scored 59 points in the initial stanza, marking the most for the program in a single half since dropping in 61 in the second half of a non-conference affair with North Carolina back on Dec. 15, 2012 in Chapel Hill.
Western Carolina enjoyed a quick start to the second 20 minutes, putting together a 9-2 run capped by a Robinson basket to cut the ECU lead to 61-42. Unfazed, the Pirates would take what would be their largest advantage of the evening when RJ Felton put in a nice layup off a Robinson-White helper to make the score 77-49 with 12:30 left in regulation.
The Catamounts kept within shouting distance thanks to draining a couple shots from beyond the arc, but would not come closer than 13 the rest of the evening.
Up Next: East Carolina opens the Myrtle Beach Invitational Thursday, Nov. 18 against Oklahoma at 7 p.m. inside Coastal Carolina University’s HTC Center. The game will be broadcast live on ESPNU.
Head Coach Joe Dooley
“We got off to a good start shooting the ball. Our defense was solid but we gave up too many second-chance points. In the first half alone, we gave up 19. All those threes made it harder to rebound, but when we were rebounding and out and running, we were effective. Outside of a stretch at the end of the game, we played good defensively. They did a lot of dribble drives that bothered us. That is something we can correct. We had a good assist to turnover ratio. When we don’t turn it over, it can become hard for teams to run on us.”
On causing 19 turnovers with 10 steals and five blocks:
“We got twenty-five points off of turnovers. That is a good number. It is hard withstanding a team hitting 17 threes, but the guys did a nice job. 46 of 63 shots being threes is very hard to defend. We did a nice job of taking care of the ball and, when we rebounded, getting out in transition.”
On scoring 38 points in the paint despite getting out-rebounded by four:
“Well, we need to get better rebounding, but those numbers are deceptive because of the way we shot the ball. We did not do a good job of finishing possessions. Our first shot defense was almost always good. It was the offensive rebounds leading to open shots that bothered us. We were able to get so many points in the paint because we went downhill on our drives. If they did trap in the post, our big guys did a nice job reversing the ball.”
On Tristen Newton’s performance:
“He was terrific. Very effective. He shot the ball really well. He didn’t settle and got downhill as much as possible. He is a guy we need to be a playmaker and facilitator, but he has a knack to score and we need that too.”
On facing Oklahoma next Thursday:
“Great program. Top 50 team in NET rankings and KenPom. Off to a really good start. They shoot a lot of threes too, but they also really defend. They only gave up 10 points in a half already this season. Guarding the three-point line is big, but we’re excited to play a Big 12 opponent.”
Sophomore Guard Tristen Newton
On his overall performance:
“In the first half, every single one of my jump shots or layups were catch and shoot so I have to give it to my teammates for finding me. In the second half, they told me to keep shooting so I did.”
On his work in the offseason:
“I cut down on a lot of weight. I went from 205 to about 180 right now. I am moving better and faster. As far as assists, that’s my teammates hitting open shots.”
On playing Oklahoma:
“We need to just focus on our game. Passing the ball, getting good open shots and playing hard defense. If we do that, we can compete with anyone.”
Sophomore Guard/Forward Brandon Suggs
On the 3-0 start at home with fans:
It has been fun. It is always fun having the crowd and I feel like they make us better. They push us and we don’t want to let them down.”
On his performance:
“I just focus on doing my job. I don’t get too focused on scoring. I am more a defensive-minded guy, so if the points come, they come.”
On Western Carolina rallying in the second half:
“We got too comfortable. We were happy with our success, and we let up. We did not stay on them. Same thing with the last two teams. We have to quit letting teams see the light of day where they think they have a chance to come back. That’ll happen with more games under our belt.”
On the team’s free-throw shooting:
“We need our free throws. I missed two of them. If I hit those, we shoot 88 percent, so I apologize to my teammates.”