MEMPHIS — Despite leading 40-26 with three minutes left in the first half, East Carolina took a 78-72 American Athletic Conference loss at Memphis on Thursday night.
The Tigers closed the first half with a 10-0 run. The Pirates regrouped to go up 49-39 with 17:36 remaining as Seth LeDay had a dunk and hit a free throw.
ECU was on top, 65-61, after a layup by freshman Jayden Gardner with 8:42 to go before Memphis had a decisive closing surge.
“You’ve got to play hard and you’ve got to play smart,” said Pirates coach Joe Dooley. “In stretches, we didn’t play as smart as we needed to.”
Gardner had 18 points on seven of 14 field goal shooting and he also grabbed eight rebounds. LeDay had 14 points, 10 rebounds, four steals and blocked three shots.
Isaac Fleming contributed 12 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. K.J. Davis finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Shawn Williams had 10 points.
ECU (8-7, 1-2 AAC) had a 44-31 rebounding advantage, but made only four of 22 attempts (18.2 percent) from 3-point range.
The Pirates were nine of 22 (40.9 percent) beyond the arc in a 73-71 home win over Cincinnati on Saturday.
“We ran down loose balls and when the ball was on the floor, our guys went after it,” Dooley said after the contest before 14,622 at FedEx Forum, site of this year’s AAC Tournament, March 14-17. “We had some good looks on threes and I thought we passed up some good looks.”
The Pirates hit 12 of 15 free throws while Memphis (10-6, 2-1) was 20 of 30 at the line.
Tyler Harris led six Tigers into double figures with 16 points. Kyvon Davenport had 11 rebounds for Memphis.
ECU continues its road trip at Central Florida (12-2, 2-0) with a Sunday contest at 4 p.m.