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Pirates fall to SMU in league opener


East Carolina's head coach Joe Dooley talks to players during a timeout on Nov. 9, 2018, in Minges Coliseum. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)


The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

A mostly steady opening half by the East Carolina basketball team Wednesday night at SMU was quickly washed out by the favored Mustangs after halftime, leading to SMU handing the Pirates an 82-54 defeat.

ECU trailed by two points, 23-21, with 4:57 until halftime in its first American Athletic Conference game of the season, but the Mustangs surged from there in a major way and opened up a 52-26 advantage early in the second half thanks to starting the half on a 17-1 run.

SMU led 35-25 at halftime. The Mustangs (9-4) improved to 7-1 in their last eight games and they have won 10 straight over the Pirates (7-6).

“I’ve done this a long time and that’s about as interesting of a start to a second half as I’ve ever seen” ECU coach Joe Dooley said on the Pirate IMG Network. “I thought for about 16 or 17 minutes of the first half we controlled tempo and did a nice job. ... (Then) it was just a total breakdown by all of us.”

Dooley and SMU head coach Tim Jankovich were assistants together at Kansas under Bill Self in the early 2000s.

ECU was in the lead for 7:42 of the first half. It went up 14-10 on a K.J. Davis 3-pointer. Jayden Gardner muscled his way to an inside bucket for his first points, giving the Pirates an 18-15 edge at the 9:14 mark of the opening half.

But SMU flooded Gardner all night and threw double-teams his way, leading to the freshman forward having to work extra hard to reach 16 points on 5-of-13 shooting from the field in 35 minutes. He had six rebounds and five turnovers.

Tyler Foster scored 11 off the bench for the Pirates.

Jahmal McMurray’s layup created the 35-25 SMU halftime advantage and then McMurray scored the first eight points of the second half. He finished with 20 points and was 4-of-11 from 3-point range.

SMU was 7-of-21 from the 3-point arc and East Carolina, which hosts Cincinnati on Saturday, was 3-for-15. SMU also enjoyed a 30-18 advantage in fastbreak points.

Jimmy Whitt Jr. made seven of his eight field goal attempts, complementing McMurray with 17 points, six assists and three steals.


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