ECU Topples Tulane 68-58
Jayden Gardner got off to a slow start offensively before getting untracked in the second half to score a game high 21 points and lead ECU to a 68-58 AAC win over Tulane Tuesday afternoon in Williams Arena.
“I’m a patient guy, I’m an unselfish guy and my team is winning, that’s the main thing. We were up by seven and the game just came to me slowly,” Gardner told PirateIllustrated.com, “Some nights you’re going to start off strong and some nights you’re going to start off in the second half and my half was the second half, but we were winning and at the end of the day it’s just about getting the W and being there for my teammates and executing really well.”
Gardner, who played 38 minutes, got help from Brandon Suggs who scored 14 points, 13 from J.J. Miles to go along with four assists and nine points from Tyree Jackson, all of which came in the first half.
Tulane got 16 points from Jalen Forbes and 14 from Gabe Watson to lead the Green Wave in scoring but ECU held the Green Wave to just 35 percent shooting and in the end, that proved to be the difference.
“Our defense was terrific. They made a lot of tough shots, credit to them. The first half I feel like almost half of their shots were tough shots - late clock shots and our defense was solid all day,” Gardner stated, “Once we started to pick apart their matchup zone we started to gain a lead. That was big. Our defense never faltered tonight.”
Miles says it means a lot to have just one loss this season against a solid SMU team heading into the holiday break.
“We struggled out of conference last year, so I feel like winning one of these (AAC) games and getting back to 1-1 in the conference gives us confidence going into the Christmas break."
For ECU head coach Joe Dooley, piling on as many wins as possible before heading into the tough post holiday American Athletic Conference slate gives his team an opportunity to do some damage if the Pirates can continue to win. He talked about what he liked about the way his team performed Tuesday afternoon against Tulane.
“We got off to a pretty good start. Our defense was good early. We were able to get some stops. We got into a little bit of an offensive rhythm to start the second half and got a little bit of a lead,” Dooley said, “The guys for the most part did a good job of following the game plan. We got a little stagnant at the end, but for the most part I was pretty happy with the defensive effort and we did some good things offensively until we turned it over a little bit late.”
“It’s hard to guard the dribble and not foul which we did some,” Dooley stated, “We gave up some at the end, so there are some things we can learn from. We were a little sluggish and lethargic passing in the second half. Those are things we can learn from. You can learn in victory and learn in defeat. We’ll take some of these things that we did poorly and try to get better when we come back.”
Two treys from Tyree Jackson and six Bitumba Baruti points keyed a 13-2 run that had ECU up by seven with 3:36 to go in the first half. The Pirates took a 32-25 lead into the break on nine Jackson points along with six from Baruti and five points from J.J. Miles.
The Pirates made fifty percent of their first half shot attempts including four treys while Jalen Forbes led Tulane(5-2/2-2 AAC) in scoring in the first twenty minutes with eight points along with seven Gabe Watson points. ECU held Tulane to only 30 percent from the floor in the first twenty minutes.
ECU(7-1/1-1 AAC) then grew a 19 point lead that Tulane chopped down to ten at 51-41 on offensive production from both Forbes and Watson at the nine minute mark. Then a Tylan Pope basket in the paint got the Green Wave back to within eight before the Pirates held on to take the victory.
The Pirates return to AAC action when then travel to Wichita State on December 30 for a 7 o’clock tipoff on ESPN+.