GREENVILLE, NC – Tristen Newton hit a clutch kick after the clutch knocked down the stretch on the way to a career-high 32-point performance as East Carolina won its American Athletic Conference opener against Tulane 88-80 in overtime Wednesday night inside Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum.
ECU has entered court for the first time since the defeat of Southern Miss on December 21 after competitions against Wichita State and South Florida were postponed due to COVID-19 developments in the Pirate Program. As such, East Carolina was without the services of Ludgy Debaut, Alanzo frink and Marlon Lestin.
The Pirates (10-3, 1-0 AAC) have remained undefeated at home this season (9-0) while giving the Green Wave (5-7, 2-1 AAC) their first loss in the league. Tulane had had impressive victories over Memphis and Cincinnati before the ECU denied Green Wave their first 3-0 AAC start in program history.
East Carolina won their league for the first time since defeating South Florida 60-49 on December 28, 2016, while also claiming an American Conference overtime victory for the first time since quitting South Florida. ‘she defeated Memphis 88-85 on February 3. 2008.
Newton’s second effort over 30 points in the campaign was completed by four more Pirates who scored in double digits – Brandon johnson (14), Brandon Suggestions (12), Vance jackson (11) and JJ Miles (ten). Newton has scored 14 of the Pirates’ 17 points in overtime. Suggs had 11 career assists for his first double-double of the season while Johnson had 10 rebounds to complete his second double-double in an East Carolina uniform. Jaylen Forbes finished with 24 points for the visitors with a 17-point double-double and 11 rebounds from Kevin Cross.
“Tristen bailed us out and made some amazing plays”, head coach Joe dooley noted. “Cross country got us in a tough spot and Forbes is a tough match. We could have folded a few times but the guys stuck with it and we got some opportune saves.”
ECU hit five of six from the field and all four attempts from the free throw line during overtime (83.3%) to seal the victory and ended up shooting 48.5% (32 of 66) for the contest. Tulane shot with an efficiency of 46.7% (28 of 60) as both teams finished with nine three-point field goals. The Green Wave entered the game as the league’s best three-point shooter by percentage, but only hit nine of 26 (34.6%) deep.
The Pirates shared the ball very well, registering 25 assists against 13 turnovers while winning the rebound battle by a margin of 35-32. East Carolina forced Tulane to make 16 turnovers and scored 21 points as a result of those errors.
ECU showed no signs of his extended break from the action early on, as he built a 15-10 lead after a second-chance layup from Johnson at 13:44. The Pirates won their first double-digit advantage of the night with a Jackson triple that gave East Carolina a 27-16 lead with 10:10 left in the opening stanza. With the passage of time, a driving stop by Rj felton gave ECU what would be their biggest lead of the game at 39-24, but the Green Wave outscored the Pirates 13-4 in the remaining minutes to be led by six in intermission.
Both teams shot the ball over 50 percent from the ground in the first 20 minutes while East Carolina had the glass advantage 18-11. Cook and Cross both scored double in the period with 11 and 10 points respectively as Jackson paced the Pirates with nine.
Despite ECU leading 10 to 47-37 in the early stages of the second half, Tulane continued to reduce their deficit and eventually took their first competition lead when Sion James converted with a layup in the paint to propel green Sign before 55-53. The teams traded their lead before finally settling at a 64-64 stalemate with exactly four minutes left in regulation.
Forbes appeared to have delivered the dagger with 24 seconds left, draining a three-point pointer to make it 69-66, but Newton responded in the dying moments with a triple that tied things up at 71. Cross nearly won in the final. buzzer, but its hook shot rolled around the rim and came out over time.
Tulane gained the upper hand early in extra time, leading 76-73 after a pair of Forbes free throws. Newton wouldn’t be denied, however, quickly tying the scoring to 76 with a three and ultimately putting the Pirates in the lead in earnest with a float in the lane to bring the score to 81-80. He then permanently sidelined the Green Wave with a long left wing triple that gave East Carolina an 86-80 cushion with less than a minute to go. Tulane never threatened again.
Following: ECU will play the first of two consecutive American Conference road games on Saturday, January 8 at Temple. The tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.