GREENVILLE — East Carolina rallied from a 43-33 deficit with 10:46 remaining to pull within 52-51 on a tip-in by Isaac Fleming with 1:01 left before falling to visiting High Point, 55-52, on Saturday night.
Denny Slay hit two free throws for the Panthers (3-3) with 41 seconds to go.
Freshman Jayden Gardner led ECU (4-3) with 18 points.
“I thought we never really got on track,” said Pirates coach Joe Dooley. “They had control of the game throughout. I thought they were more physical than us, which was disappointing.”
The Panthers are coached by High Point alum Tubby Smith. The victory marked the 600th career win for the 67-year-old Smith, whose Kentucky Wildcats won a national championship in 1998. Smith most recently served as head coach at Memphis before returning to take the reigns at his alma mater this season.
High Point jumped ahead 15-8 and was on top 27-24 at the half.
The visitors outrebounded the Pirates, 32-27 and led 11-4 on the offensive glass. High Point had eight steals to four for the hosts. ECU had 13 turnovers while the Big South Conference entry committed nine.
Shawn Williams had 11 points in the loss and Fleming finished with nine.
Jaheed Proctor paced the Panthers with 20 points.
The Pirates visit UNC-Wilmington (2-4) on Tuesday at 7 p.m.