GREENVILLE — East Carolina won its American Athletic Conference opener 60-49 against South Florida on Wednesday night in Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum.
It was the first victory in a league opener for the Pirates (9-5) since topping Tulane 69-66 on Jan. 7, 2009, to begin Conference USA play.
The Bulls (6-6) were averaging 70 points per game.
“Our defense did some good things,” said ECU coach Jeff Lebo. ” . . . We didn’t put them away in the second half.”
The Pirates led 23-4 after freshman Elijah Hughes hit a 3-pointer with 7:55 left in the first half. Hughes led all scorers with 19 points.
USF closed within eight points for the last time at 54-46 with 1:02 remaining. ECU might have won more decisively with better free throw shooting but made just 21 of 38 at the line, 55.3 percent.
“We’re going to have to shoot a lot better,” said Lebo, whose team hosts Southern Methodist (11-3, 1-0) at noon on Saturday.
B.J. Tyson had 11 points for the Pirates. Caleb White and Jeremy Sheppard added nine points each. ECU was outrebounded 43-35 despite eight grabs each for Kentrell Barkley and Andre Washington, who also blocked six shots.
Sheppard had four assists and six steals.
The Bulls had 18 turnovers compared to 13 for the Pirates.
Geno Thorpe led USF with 18 points. Tulio Da Silva had 12 rebounds for the visitors.
ECU reduced the Bulls’ lead in the series to 7-6. The teams meet again in Tampa on Saturday, Feb. 11, at 8 p.m.