HARTFORD, CT — East Carolina won its first-round game in the American Athletic Conference Tournament, 80-69, over Temple on Thursday afternoon as sophomore Kentrell Barkley had 26 points, 16 rebounds and three assists.
Freshman Elijah Hughes added 17 points for the ninth-seeded Pirates (15-17), who meet top-seeded Southern Methodist (27-4), ranked No. 12 by the Associated Press, in the quarterfinals at noon Friday in the XL Center.
Senior Caleb White added 11 points.
“This is tournament time,” said Barkley, who dealt with some tendinitis in his left knee. “I was dialed in.”
ECU came in as the 10th-ranked team in Division I for lowest field goal percentage by opponents (38.7). The Pirates limited the Owls (16-16) to 26 of 69 from the field, 37.7 percent.
Temple is 15-1 when scoring 70 or more points during 2016-17 and 1-15 when scoring below that number.
“They have high skill level guys,” said interim Pirates coach Michael Perry. “We wanted to be physical with them.”
Two fouls on freshman Deng Riak and a left ankle injury for shot blocker Andre Washington led to 29 minutes of playing time for Michel Nzege, who responded with seven points and six rebounds.
ECU outrebounded the Owls, 36-29.
The Pirates sank 28 of 55 field goal attempts for 50.9 percent. ECU made 10 of 21 from beyond the arc for 47.6 percent and dropped 14 of 20 free throws for 70 percent.
Obi Enechionyia led four Temple players into double figures with 20 points. Quinton Rose scored 13. Shizz Alston Jr. had 11 points and Daniel Dingle tallied 10. Alston had five assists.
Jeremy Sheppard assisted a 3-pointer by Riak just 27 seconds into the game for a 3-0 lead and the Pirates stayed on top the rest of the way. Sheppard had four assists to go with seven points.
The Owls were within 53-52 after a jumper by Alston with 11:22 to go. Hughes made a three off an assist from Barkley with 9:54 left to spark an 8-2 run by ECU for a 61-54 lead on a drive by Hughes with 8:13 remaining. Temple got no closer than five points the rest of the way.
Washington had six points, three rebounds and two blocked shots in 17 minutes. Riak and B.J. Tyson had three points each. Riak controlled six rebounds.
“They beat us and some other people like we owed them some money,” Perry said. “The good news is we won. The bad news is we play SMU, but we’ll try to make it good news.”