PirateIllustrated - Gardner Scores 28, Newton Adds 20 to Lead ECU Past VMI 80-68
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Gardner Scores 28, Newton Adds 20 to Lead ECU Past VMI 80-68

Tristen Newton drives in the paint to score two of his 20 points in his debut as a Pirate in an 80-68 win over VMI.
Tristen Newton drives in the paint to score two of his 20 points in his debut as a Pirate in an 80-68 win over VMI. (PirateIllustrated.com photo)

Jayden Gardner delivered a double-double with 28 points and 11 rebounds to lead ECU to an 80-60 opening night win over VMI 80-68 in Minges Coliseum Tuesday night.

Gardner got an abundance of help with 20 points from 6-5 freshman guard Tristen Newton who filled in at the point in the absence of both Tremont Robinson-White and Tyrie Jackson who are out injured. The Pirates suffered few if any ill effects from their absence.

“The whole team in practice has been telling me to work hard, it’s your chance so they got me prepared. All thanks to them, I was pretty confident. I was pretty prepared for it," Newton told PirateIllustrated.com after the game.

If there were any doubts about Gardner's prowess, he laid that to rest Tuesday night.

“I just go in and do what I do. So Pirate Nation, it’s a wake up call. I’m still here,” said Gardner, “I’m still going hard. Just getting a feel, in the first half, I had jitters and then in the second half we locked up and tightened up on defense. We executed some offense and we got the W.”

Gardner talked about what he was seeing offensively against VMI’s defense.

“Just knowing my spots, they switched up a lot and I just had to get behind the defender and then my teammates were great throwing the ball up so only I could get it and I just had to finish against the weak side help,” Gardner stated.

The margin could have been even wider had ECU not missed ten free throws and they only hit 4 of 12 from the arc, but the Pirates kept their opening night win streak alive at 20 straight including 18 straight home openers at home.

An 11-0 VMI run that began at the six minute mark before halftime had the Keydets up by two at 38-36 as the two teams went into the locker room.

Greg Parham scored a team leading 23 points for VMI including 14 first half points and Jake Stephens scored all ten of his points in the first half. Meanwhile Tristen Newton’s 14 points on five for six shooting and Jayden Gardner’s ten first half points led the Pirates. ECU hit just 2 of 7 from the arc in the first twenty minutes.

ECU was a little on the shaky side defending the arc and VMI took advantage, making six treys in the first twenty minutes before the Pirates eventually settled down and Gardner then went to work scoring 18 of his points in the second half.

“I thought we had jitters like we expected, especially early in the game. We were very sped up offensively. A lot of that was attributed to the switching man defense that they played. We got a little discombobulated for a while offensively and we turned it over and missed some layups,” said ECU head coach Joe Dooley, “Our defense changed in the second half and obviously we didn’t give up as many easy layups.”

Gardner 3-point play thirty seconds into the second half and a Tristen Newton three-point bomb gave ECU a quick four point lead. The Pirates dominated the second half from there, outscoring the Keydets by 14 points to take the 12 point victory.

ECU travels to Navy for an 8:30 game on Friday before heading to Boone to take on Appalachian State next Tuesday at 7 pm.