ORLANDO — East Carolina’s 2017-18 season drew to a close with a 66-52 loss to Central Florida in the first round of the American Athletic Conference Tournament on Thursday night at the Amway Center.
The Pirates finished 10-20 overall after going 4-14 in conference play and coming in as the No. 11 seed for the league event.
Shawn Williams, named AAC Freshman of the Year earlier this week, led ECU with 17 points. Pirates senior B.J. Tyson added 14 points.
ECU was within 46-45 on a 3-pointer by Tyson with 9:39 left to play after trailing by 15 points early in the second half.
That prompted a 10-0 run by the Knights (19-12), who advance to meet Houston (24-6) in the quarterfinals at 9 p.m. tonight.
“Fatigue became a factor,” said interim Pirates coach Michael Perry.
ECU finished the season without Kentrell Barkley, who was suspended after averaging 12.0 points and 7.1 rebounds during his junior year.
Tyson had seven rebounds in his last college game as the Pirates had a 30-25 lead on the boards.
Senior Jabari Craig had seven points and eight rebounds. Freshman K.J. Davis finished with seven points and five rebounds.
Williams handed out six assists.
UCF was paced by 17 points from B.J. Taylor and 14 from A.J. Davis. Taylor had four assists in the win and Chad Brown claimed 10 rebounds.
There was a big disparity in free throws as ECU made eight of 12 at the line compared to 20 of 36 for the Knights.
Perry has said he would like to continue as coach of the Pirates, who lost their last six after an 82-80 road win over Tulane on Feb. 14.
A coaching search has been in progress but its status is unclear after reports that ECU athletic director Jeff Compher will accept a buyout and resign.
“I expect to have conversations in the coming days and weeks,” Perry said.
It may work out that a new athletic director will be allowed to make the determination on the basketball coaching situation.
In other first-round games on Thursday, Southern Methodist defeated Connecticut, 80-73, Memphis topped South Florida, 79-77, and Temple ousted Tulane, 82-77.
In the earlier quarterfinals, SMU (17-15) plays top-seeded Cincinnati (27-4) at noon today, Memphis (20-12) faces Tulsa (19-11) at 2 p.m. and Temple (17-14) takes on Wichita State (24-6) at 7 p.m.