GREENVILLE, N.C. – Emmanuel Bandoumei paced four SMU double-figure scorers Saturday night as the Mustangs used a big second half to post an 80-66 American Athletic Conference victory over East Carolina inside Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum.
SMU (18-5, 9-2 AAC) moved into first place in the league standings with the victory while the Pirates (12-12, 3-9 AAC) dropped their fourth straight at home.
Bandoumei netted 23 points and hit six three-point field goals while Michael Weathers, Marcus Weathers and Zach Nutall chipped in with 13, 11 and 10 points respectively. Tristen Newton led ECU with 19 points with Brandon Suggs contributing 14 off the bench. Ludgy Debaut tied a career high with 11 rebounds and picked up two blocks as well.
Newton finished with five assists, becoming the eighth player in program history to record 300 for a career. He now has 303 in nearly three seasons in the Purple and Gold.
The Mustangs shot 46.3 percent (25 of 54) from the field and drained 14 of 30 attempts from beyond the arc. Conversely, East Carolina finished at 37.9 percent (25 of 66) overall and was 6 for 22 (27.3 percent) from three-point range. The Pirates outrebounded SMU 39-37 and grabbed 15 offensive boards, but the Mustangs scored 22 points off 13 ECU turnovers.
“They didn’t do anything different in the second half,” head coach Joe Dooley said. “They have some good shooters, but we guarded them in the first half and that’s why we were in the game. We let a couple of plays in the second half twist our body language and that should never happen.”
SMU went up 4-0 just 1:40 into the contest on a pair of dunks, but a turnaround jumper by Vance Jackson would knot the score at five a few minutes later. After the Mustangs forged ahead 11-5 via a Weathers fastbreak bucket, the Pirates responded with a 16-5 run capped by a Debaut layup to take a 21-16 advantage with 8:08 remaining in the half. Suggs kept ECU in front by a 23-21 margin with a driving layup at the 5:49 mark. However, SMU outscored the Pirates 12-7 the rest of the way to carry a 33-30 edge into the intermission.
Bandoumel scored a game-best 11 points in the opening 20 minutes while Suggs checked in with 10. East Carolina held a 24-20 advantage on the glass, but the Mustangs outshot the Pirates 42.3 percent (11 of 26) to 31.6 (12 of 38).
A layup by Jackson sliced the SMU cushion to one at 33-32 just 21 seconds into the second stanza, but Nutall would put the visitors up 12 at the 14:04 mark with a three that made the score 50-38. ECU was unable to reduce its deficit to single digits as the Mustangs led by as much 21 before the final horn sounded.
Up Next: East Carolina embarks on a two-game road swing through Florida next week, facing off against South Florida (Feb. 17) and UCF (Feb. 20).