GREENVILLE — East Carolina withstood a Tulane comeback that trimmed a 15-point lead to three points as the Pirates took a 74-65 American Athletic Conference win in Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum on Saturday.
Caleb White contributed 20 points as ECU improved to 11-13 overall and 3-8 in the AAC. Freshman Jeremy Sheppard hit five 3-pointers and finished with 18 points. Sophomore Kentrell Barkley had 14 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.
After the Green Wave (4-19, 1-10) had gone ahead 28-27, Elijah Hughes drove to restore the lead for the Pirates and start a 16-3 run that put ECU on top, 43-31, at the half.
A short jumper by Deng Riak gave the Pirates their biggest lead at 52-37 with 16:16 left to play. The Green Wave closed within 63-60 on a basket by Malik Morgan with 5:10 to go. ECU answered with 3-pointers by Barkley and Sheppard to push the margin to nine points.
The Pirates made 13 of 21 from beyond the arc, 57.1 percent.
That was a significant improvement from a seven for 25 performance from long range (28.0 percent) in an 86-46 drubbing at Southern Methodist on Wednesday night.
“You’ve got to work at putting the ball in the hoop,” said Michael Perry, ECU’s interim coach as Jeff Lebo continues to recover from hip surgery. “You’ve got to be aggressive in practice so it carries over into games. You can’t overthink it. You’ve just got to play through it.”
White connected early and that helped his confidence.
“Big monkey off my back,” he said.
ECU outrebounded the visitors 36-27 as Andre Washington grabbed six. Washington’s line also included seven points, six blocked shots and four assists.
Riak and Michel Nzege each pulled down five rebounds. Riak had six points, Hughes scored five and Nzege tallied four.
Cameron Reynolds paced Tulane with 16 points. Ray Ona Embo had 15 points in the loss, Melvin Frazier totaled 13 and Ryan Smith scored 10.
Morgan had 12 assists and four steals.
ECU was able to overcome 14 turnovers compared to seven for Tulane.
The Pirates return to action at South Florida on Saturday at 8 p.m. with aspirations for their first road win.
ECU, which improved to 10-4 at home, topped the Bulls 60-49 in Greenville on Dec. 28. USF has changed coaches since then with Murry Bartow taking over for Orlando Antigua on an interim basis.
“It’s a great time for the guys to rest, get caught up on their academics and heal a little bit,” said Perry, who noted that Barkley would be out of practice for a couple of days.