NASSAU, Bahamas — East Carolina validated the personnel transition initiated by coach Joe Dooley in his second season back with the program by downing Evansville, 85-68, on Friday night.
Dooley brought in 11 new players for 2019-20 and the talent makeover helped produce a triumph over the Aces, who jumped on the national stage with a 67-64 win at then-No. 1 Kentucky on Nov. 12.
Sophomore Jayden Gardner, a returning player, led the way with 28 points and 10 rebounds as the Pirates (2-3) snapped a 3-game losing streak that followed an 80-68 season opening victory at home over VMI.
ECU will meet Kansas City in the semifinals of the Islands of the Bahamas Showcase tonight at 8 p.m.
The Pirates jumped out to a 14-2 lead and hit 30 of 52 field goal attempts, 53.6 percent.
“We guarded a lot better and we definitely kept people in front of us” Dooley said. “… When we didn’t turn the ball over, I thought our offense actually got going pretty good.”
The Aces got within two points late in the first half and rallied within four points early in the second half.
Freshman Tristen Newton supplied 18 points and five assists for the Pirates. Newton made all nine of his free throws.
Senior Seth LeDay added 12 points for ECU and Brandon Suggs tallied 10.