ECU Stumbles 72-62 To UCF In First Round AAC Tourney Action
UCF made easy work of cold shooting East Carolina in a 72-62 win in the first round of the AAC basketball tournament at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth.
It was the Knights’ fifth straight win overall and Johnny Dawkins’ ninth straight win against the Pirates that brought ECU’s basketball season to a merciful end Thursday night.
Darius Perry with 15 points led four Knights in double-figures including 12 each from Darrin Green and Avery Diggs and 10 from Brandon Mahan.
Jayden Gardner led all scorers with 17 points along with nine rebounds while Brandon Suggs added 14 and Tristen Newton scored 13 for ECU.
The Knights grabbed an early 10-2 lead behind seven Darius Perry points in just the first three and a half minutes of the contest, ECU had no answer for the UCF zone defense and the Knights pretty much never looked back.
“We’ve got to get off to a better start. We didn’t shoot the ball well and we can’t let our offense dictate how our defense plays,” ECU head coach Joe Dooley said.
Back to back baskets from Tristen Newton got ECU back to within five at 17-12. Then a J.J. Miles jumper cut the Knight lead to as little as four with just over six minutes in the first half, but that was as close as the Pirates would come.
Three-pointers from Adams, Mahan and Green, 11 first half points from Darius Perry and ECU’s inability to score at the offensive end of the court found sixth seeded UCF(9-10) up by nine points at halftime. The Knights shot at a 54 percent rate including 5 of 12 from the arc while the Pirates went hitless in five three-point attempts in the first twenty minutes.
Three straight Gardner baskets got ECU(8-11), the 11 seed, back within the realm of reason at 44-38. But a pair of fruitless Pirate possessions negated their efforts and resulted in UCF layups at the other end from Darius Perry and Darin Green, Jr. Suddenly the Knights were right back up by ten.
Three Darrin Green baskets keyed a 10-2 UCF run before a Brandon Mahan three-point bomb from somewhere in downtown Fort Worth expanded the UCF lead to to fifteen.
Brandon Suggs’ three-pointer with 5:38 to go was ECU’s first of the game in ten team attempts. They ended up 3 for 13 from the arc and just 60 percent from the charity stripe on 9 of 15 shooting when they managed to get a foul called. The Pirates only turned the ball over seven times.
“The other side of it was we missed a lot of shots at the rim and I thought that was the big difference. Reynolds and Diggs get twenty points and made their layups and we missed a bunch of layups.”
“We had 17 assists but we struggled with the ball and we only had seven turnovers, but It seemed like we had 25,” Dooley said, “We took some really ill advised shots. We were sped up offensively especially in the first half and we took some bad ones which is the same as turnovers. We had seven turnovers but they were all ill timed and they led to run out baskets.”
Two Tremont Robinson-White free throws had ECU back to within twelve points until a three-point play in the paint from Jamie Reynolds kept ECU at bay in the last five minutes and UCF went on to win by ten.