Gardner Scores 23 But Memphis Rallies Late To Beat ECU 66-59
Improving ECU put together a solid effort before Memphis got enough points late to turn a tie game into a 65-59 victory inside FedEx Forum on Saturday.
ECU forward Jayden Gardner led all scorers with 23 points but 1 for 13 shooting from the arc and seven Memphis treys made life difficult for a Pirate team that nearly won anyway. Brandon Suggs added ten points for ECU(8-7/2-7 AAC)
Memphis placed three players in double figures led by twelve points each from D.J. Jeffries and Landers Nolley and Alex Lomax scored ten for a Tigers team that improved to 12-6 and 8-3 in AAC play.
“Lomax had a pass at the end and just some of the heady plays he made. He got downhill and the one finish was strong. He got his shoulders turned and that was a heck of a shot that he made,” said ECU head coach Joe Dooley, “I thought Tre (Robinson-White) did a nice job guarding him. Nine assists and when he’s in the game they play the game, plus ten and nine assists, he’s the heart and soul of that team to me as far as them winning games. When he plays well, they do quite well.”
The Tigers held a ten rebounds advantage overall and even though ECU got the better of it in terms of shooting percentage overall, Memphis made up for it with eight key treys that proved to be much of the difference on the scoreboard.
“We were up six and we get an offensive foul on a free throw and that sort of hurt us,” said Dooley, “A 13-5 run at the end of the game obviously put us in harms way, but eight (Memphis) offensive rebounds and ten turnovers in the second half was the difference that probably hurt us the most.”
The Pirates were solid early in the second half erasing a nine point halftime lead to hold as much as a six point lead but Memphis made three’s helped breed confidence for Memphis while missing them made life increasingly tough for ECU down the stretch.
“Of the 13 we probably had nine good looks and a couple that were forced late in the clock and that happens but we’ve got to be able to run the offense a little bit crisper. We did have some efforts from some guys,” Dooley said, “Jayden was good as usual and I though Ludgy (Debaut) gave us some good effort and we had Brandon was banged up but he had a good start in the first half.”
A pair of early Ludgy Debut buckets fueled what looked to be another promising start for ECU before a pair of Memphis buckets turned a close game early into a 10-4 lead after a questionable no call on what looked to be contact on a Jayden Gardner shot block in the paint that then was awarded to the Tigers.
Memphis heated up with three treys off of missed ECU offensive opportunities and four turnovers. That suddenly gave the Tigers 19-8 working margin before Malcolm Dandridge’s dunk compounded the problem for the Pirates at 21-8 midway into the half.
Tristen Newton knocked down ECU’s only three-pointer of the game with seven minutes left in the half. Bitumba Baruti followed with a slash into the paint before two Brandon Suggs free throws cut the lead to 21-19.
Memphis then traded three’s for two’s late in the half while ECU went cold, making just one for eight from the arc before a Boogie Ellis bomb had the Tigers up 35-26 at halftime.
Miles and Gardner got off early in the second half and the Pirates quickly trimmed the Memphis lead to three before a Suggs reverse layup cut the lead to one. Tremont Robinson-White’s floater in the paint tied the game at 39-39 with 15 minutes left before a Baruti basket gave ECU a 41-39 lead.
The ECU lead grew to four on a Suggs backdoor cut on a nice assist from Newton and a Gardner post up expanded the Pirate lead to as much as six at 47-41 in a 13-2 Pirate run.
But Deandre Williams’ basket along with a Alex Lomax drive quickly cut the Pirate lead to one at 47-46 with nine minutes remaining before a pair of Jeffries free throws helped the Tigers recapture the lead in a 7-0 run.
The game remained tied with just under four minutes left before baskets from Lomax and Jeffries and a pair of free throws had Memphis up by five. Gardner scored on the ECU end, but Baruti’s fifth foul resulted in another Jeffries free throw and a four point lead.
Gardner managed to get to the stripe with 54 seconds to go to trim the lead to as little as two before a Quinones corner bomb was the dagger that extended the Memphis lead to five with 26 seconds left and put the game away late.
ECU returns to action on Monday when they host SMU in conference action. Game time is at 5 o’clock on ESPN2.