basketball Edit

Tristen Newton's Three Point Bomb Sinks Mustangs 71-68

Tristen Newton was the man of the hour with nine of his eleven points in the second half including three treys and the game winner in ECU's 71-68 victory over SMU Saturday afternoon in Minges Coliseum.
Tristen Newton was the man of the hour with nine of his eleven points in the second half including three treys and the game winner in ECU's 71-68 victory over SMU Saturday afternoon in Minges Coliseum. ( photo)

Tristen Newton’s game winning three-pointer from the corner with just 2.7 seconds to go on the final Pirate possession of the game proved to be the difference in ECU’s 71-68 AAC upset victory over SMU Saturday afternoon in Greenville.

Newton was one of three players that scored eleven points for ECU(8-8/2-1 AAC) along with a team high 20 points and nine rebounds from the league’s leading scorer, Jayden Gardner. With the win, the Pirates have clawed their way back to .500 at 8-8 on the season and got their first win ever over the Mustangs.

Afterward, Pirate head coach Joe Dooley discussed the final play that all started with a Tremont Robinson-White drive in the paint.

“He drove and Jayden set a really good screen. Tremont got downhill and made a heck of a play, so it was a little bit of a are (for them) we going to help on the drive and if we don’t help on the drive then we’ll get a layup,” said Dooley, “Once he got around the corner, they helped and he threw the ball to Tristen and obviously Tristen made a huge shot. Someone is going to be open. If you throw it in the middle of the floor you can load up. Tremont is slithery and we just hoped he could get somewhere and make a play and he certainly did.”

For Newton, the 6-6 freshman out of El Paso, it was a big moment in his young East Carolina collegiate career so far.

“We were running a play for Tremont to get downhill,” said Newton, “Three people got on him and he just got it to me and it was a wide open shot. They still had two seconds, so after that it was okay.”

ECU committed just eight turnovers on the game and that’s a good thing because SMU only committed nine. After a slow beginning, ECU managed to nail eleven treys in 24 attempts which helped make up for SMU(12-3/2-1 AAC) getting to the stripe 24 times where they hit 20. The Pirates made 12 of 16 though in their own right and to win games in the tough AAC, you have to take advantage of every opportunity available to score points.

“We had 18 assists and just eight turnovers and I thought our defense bent but it didn’t break,” Dooley told, “You look at our field goal percentage, they’re shooting 47 percent and they shoot 38 tonight. I think we’re 8-0 when people have shot under forty percent. They average almost 80 points a game and we gave up 68, so those are all things where we are making progress.”

Gardner talked about the overall progress of this young ECU team and the confidence that is coming from competing so well against the top half of the league including SMU in particular on Saturday.

“They’re probably the best offensive team in the league,” said Gardner, “Skill, size everywhere and very tough to guard, but we held our own tonight and we didn’t turn over the ball and we got to shoot the ball. We hit a bunch of big shots in a row. Pig (Jackson) started it off early hot, so it was nice to see all the guys gaining confidence. This team hasn’t reached the ceiling yet and we’re going to keep getting better and better.”

The Mustangs got a game high 21 points from Isiaha Mike along with 13 from point guard Kendric Davis and 11 from Emmanuel Bandoumel. Tyson Jolly and Feron Hunt weren’t far behind with nine and eight points respectively.

“It was a tale of two halves. I loved our team in the first half in I can’t tell you how many ways,” said SMU coach Tim Jankovich, “I saw so many things that were so positive starting with the way we stemmed the tide. I knew East Carolina would be really, really excited and charged up to play this game. They came out making every shot. We weren’t playing poorly, they were just making shots. No panic, no flinch and played as well as you could possibly hope on a conference road game for the first half.”

“Unfortunately the same team did not come for us in the second half and neither did their’s. Their team was a different one. I wish it had been flipped where our first half had been our second half. I would have taken it in reverse. That would have helped,” Jankovich stated.

“Give them a lot of credit. I think we helped them by the way we started the half. To allow them to shoot some wide open horse shots in the second half, I think that was our biggest mistake. It gave them a whole other mentality and then you’re in a dog fight on the road. They played outstanding in the second half.”

But it was ECU’s ability to hit big shots in the second half and out rebound the Mustangs both on the defensive glass and overall that limited SMU to one shot on several key possessions down the stretch.

“We scratched and clawed. We got off to a good start and then we got very lethargic and stopped doing what got us the lead,” said Dooley, “SMU is very talented offensively, so when they put us in harms way in a 19-3 run. The next thing you know we were back on our heels.”

“I thought the guys responded at halftime. We rallied and chipped away and chipped away. We had some guys make some big plays offensively culminating in Tristen’s shot. There was a number of them before that obviously got us in that spot including Tristen hitting two threes back to back when we were really struggling. It was a good team win.”

Dooley’s team is heating up at just the right time and their depth in the backcourt is giving the Pirates the necessary firepower to properly compete in the AAC.

“That was probably the most three’s that we’ve shot on the year. I thought in the first half we thought we turned down five or six,” said Dooley, “J.J. (Miles) turned down two or three, Brandon (Suggs) turned down one and in the second half the guys did a nice job of driving. I thought the ball in the second half moved a lot better from side to side than it did in the first half.”

ECU held an early 11-3 lead on a three-point jumper from Brandon Suggs before the Mustangs began to take advantage of some empty Pirate possessions.

Seven minutes into the game, SMU took the lead at 17-14 on a Kendric Davis basket along with a pair of free throws. Then behind Feron Hunt, the Mustang lead grew to eight at 24-16 with 8:53 to go in the half.

But an ECU three-pointer from Tyree Jackson followed by a pair of Jackson free throws on the following possession got ECU back to within three at 24-21 at the six minute mark. Two fruitless Pirate possessions led to SMU expanding their lead to eleven at 32-22.

Gardner’s basket underneath on an overhead lob from Tristen Newton was all ECU could muster in the final minute and a half of the first period and SMU took an eleven point 38-27 lead into the locker room at halftime.

ECU hit just 33 percent of their shots in the first twenty minutes but the Pirates did hold the Mustangs to just 3 of 15 shooting from the arc defensively. Kendric Davis led SMU with nine first half points and the Mustangs scored 14 of their points in the paint.

Early baskets from Suggs, Gardner and a trey from Robinson-White got ECU back to within six. Two Newton treys cut the lead to as little as five at the fifteen minute mark.

Two minutes later, a long bomb from J.J. Miles and two Gardner baskets had ECU within two at 49-47 before another Miles bomb gave ECU the lead at 52-51 at the ten minute mark. Miles’ third trey of the half and a Bitumba Baruti three-pointer had ECU in the lead by one with less than seven minutes left on the clock.

But a pair of Isiaha Mike’s three-pointers for SMU gave the Mustangs a bit of a working margin at five points with four minutes left. Two Gardner free throws, Tremont Robinson-White’s baseline drive and subsequent free throw and a Gardner put-back of a missed second free throw tied the game with a minute left.

Gardner managed to draw a foul as the shot clock was down to just a second and then hit two free throws with 29.3 seconds on the game clock to give ECU the lead at 68-66.

Two Tyson Jolly free throws tied the game with 12 seconds to go, giving ECU the final possession of the game. Then with 2.7 seconds to play Tristen Newton’s three-pointer from the left corner put ECU up 71-68. SMU’s half court shot at the buzzer missed and the Pirates escaped with the victory.

ECU takes on Tulsa next Wednesday night to wrap up a three-game home stand in Minges Coliseum. Tip off is scheduled for 7 o’clock on ESPN3.