GREENVILLE, N.C. – Just call it Minges Magic.
East Carolina remained unbeaten at home in 2021-22 as Brandon Suggs’ baseline jumper as time expired gave the Pirates a 72-71 victory over Memphis in an American Athletic Conference contest Saturday evening inside Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum. A season-high crowd of 5,107 was on hand to witness the buzzer-beating win.
ECU (11-5, 2-2 AAC) rallied from a 19-point first-half deficit to record its first victory over the Tigers (9-7, 3-3 AAC) since Feb. 3, 2018 – an 88-85 overtime triumph in Greenville. The Pirates also secured the first 10-0 start to a home season since the 1955-56 campaign.
“We figured they were going to latch on and try to overplay,” head coach Joe Dooley said of the contest’s final play. “We had multiple guys back cut, and it was a heck of a catch by Brandon. There was no doubt the shot got off in time.”
Suggs and Vance Jackson finished the game with 17 points apiece while Jackson added seven rebounds and three assists. A trio of Pirates also notched double figures in the scoring column as Alanzo Frink, Tristen Newton and Tremont Robinson-White all posted 11-point efforts with Newton chipping in seven assists. Jalen Duren topped the Memphis side with 15 points and nine rebounds.
“We don’t win the game without Brandon tonight,” Dooley added. “I know he was disappointed in how he played at Cincinnati and I’m proud of how he responded.”
The Tigers fell off considerably in the shooting department after halftime, hitting 11 of 27 (40.7 percent) in the period to finish the night right at 50 percent (30 of 60) from the field. ECU fired at a 40.4-percent clip from the floor, connecting on 23 of 57 attempts. Memphis held a slight edge in the rebounding department at 37-35, but turned the ball over 17 times and went just four of 11 from the free-throw line.
The teams traded the lead back and forth in the early minutes before Memphis scored nine straight to pull ahead 17-8 at the 11:51 mark. The Tigers began to pull away, using a Bates pullup three in transition to establish a 34-15 cushion with 6:51 to play in the half. ECU cut into its deficit from there as Robinson-White scored five quick points to make it a 14-point game, but the Pirates could come no closer than 12 before the break.
Bates paced all scorers in the opening stanza with 13 points while Robinson-White dropped in 11 for East Carolina. Memphis shot a blistering 57.6 percent (19 of 33) from the floor and outrebounded the Pirates, 19-17. The Tigers took advantage of eight ECU turnovers, netting 16 points as a result, and outscored East Carolina 24-8 in the paint.
Memphis stayed ahead by double figures for much of the second half, building as much as a 15-point cushion with 12:10 remaining in the contest. A big triple by Suggs at the 10:07 mark finally sliced the Pirate deficit into single digits and started the slow but steady comeback.
A Malcolm Dandrige bucket saw the Tigers lead by 10 at 70-60 with just 2:18 remaining, but ECU held the visitors to just one more point the rest of the way. Suggs drained a pair of foul shots to spark a 10-0 run that knotted the score at 70. A huge three by Jackson provided the game-tying points as the clock ticked under a minute.
Lester Quinones went to the line with 14 seconds to go and hit one of two to give Memphis the lead. Frink had a layup attempt blocked out of bounds as one second was put back on the clock. Suggs wriggled free on the inbounds play and sank the game winner to set off a raucous celebration inside the venue.
Up Next: East Carolina is back in action Tuesday evening when it hosts American Athletic Conference opponent UCF.