PirateIllustrated - ECU Rides Wave To First Road Win
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ECU Rides Wave To First Road Win

East Carolina placed four players in double-figures, led by 20 Jayden Gardner points and 18 from freshman guard Tristen Newton as the Pirates grab their tenth win 81-67 over Tulane for their first road victory this season Saturday night in Fogelman Arena.

Brandon Suggs and Pig Jackson added 11 points apiece while Bitumba Baruti scored nine and Tremont Robinson-White added eight points. Both Baruti and Newton pulled down nine rebounds to go along with eight more from Gardner. The victory also snapped a three-game losing skid for the Pirates.

“We had to play consistent the whole game for the most part we played hard for the whole game,” Newton said afterward, “It gives us a lot more confidence. This win lets us know that we can win on the road.”

It was Jackson’s best game thus far as a Pirate with three pivital drives late in the contest to go along with a three-point jumper in the first half.

“It felt good to make a three. I saw it go in as soon as I let it go I shot the ball without even thinking about it,” said Jackson who talked about taking the ball to the basket at a time when ECU needed some scoring production late, “I just felt like I had the ball in my hands and Coach tells us to shoot before we turn the ball over. I could see we were down to close to the end and I had to make a play. It was just an open opportunity and I took it.”

Joe Dooley is taking things one step at a time, working to get his young Pirates over the hump. The first step was getting a conference win on the road and that opens the door for increased confidence with four road matchups remaining starting with Tulsa next Wednesday night.

“We did some good things. I thought we got off to a good start, the guys played with some good energy. It’s hard to win on the road. I think it helps our guys a little bit. We’ve been on a little bit of a tear going the wrong way. Hopefully this will help them as we finish the season out,” Dooley said, "We are better than we were a month ago. Sometimes it doesn't always show, but we're becoming a better team and the young guys are getting a lot of minutes. Hopefully that will helps us in the future."

ECU(10-14/4-7 AAC) made 53 percent of their shots on 18 assists to just 38 percent shooting for Tulane(10-13/2-9 AAC) including just 9 of 34 from the arc. The Pirates also connected on 20 of 24 from the charity stripe and out rebounded the Green Wave by a 46-26 margin despite 16 ECU turnovers.

“We were good with the ball. We had 18 assists on 29 field goals and the only negative really was we turned it over too much. We had some boneheaded turnovers, especially in the first half. In the second half I thought we did a better job,” Dooley stated, “The ball moved pretty well and the guys did a nice job of sharing it.”

“In the second half, I don’t think we missed the front end of a one-and-one and we closed it out at the end which is what you need to do - step up and make your free throws,” said Dooley, “We did a nice job especially in the second half of rebounding the ball.”

ECU’s 9-0 run on 70 percent shooting in the first eight minutes of the contest quickly had the Pirates up 17-10. Jayden Gardner scored six early points in that span, Tristen Newton had five and Jackson's three-pointer broke his multi-game cold spell from the arc.

But Teshaun Hightower’s three-point play in the paint, Kevin Zhang’s three-point bomb and a pair of Christion Thompson free throws allowed the Green Wave to erase the early Tulane deficit and take a 22-21 lead with 6:24 to go in the half.

Gardner’s twelfth point of the half along with ten from Tristen Newton and nine from Brandon Suggs had ECU up 37-34 at the break. The Pirates scored 18 points in the paint in the first twenty minutes on 59 percent shooting and went 9 for 12 from the foul line. The Pirates also held Tulane to just 36 percent shooting in the first half and held a 20-11 advantage on the glass.

The Pirates got off to another positive start in the second half, scoring on their first six possessions to take a 50-40 lead. Threes from Zhang, K.J. Lawson and Nic Thomas and a Christion Thompson drive then cut the ECU lead to three at 58-55 with 9:12 to go.

But three physical drives from Pig Jackson, two of which were for three-point plays, four throws from Tremont Robinson-White and two more from Bitumba Baruti gave the Pirates their biggest lead at 78-65 at the three minute mark. Then Gardner’s basket in the paint with 1:37 to play put the game on ice at 80-65.

ECU travels to Tulsa for an 8 p.m. game on ESPN3.