GREENVILLE — Tulsa overcame a 26-point performance by Jayden Gardner with a 12-3 run during the last two minutes for a 77-68 American Athletic Conference win over East Carolina in Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum on Saturday.
Pirates coach Joe Dooley was back on the sideline after a 2-game absence for COVID protocols.
“Obviously, disappointed in the way we closed it out,” Dooley said. ” … I’ve got to give Tulsa credit. Obviously, they made some plays, especially (Brandon) Rachal and (Elijah) Joyner.
“I thought a real key in the basketball game was (Darien) Jackson. I thought he played with great energy. He got a couple of loose balls for them. … He was good defensively. He had a steal and just gave them a lot of energy.”
Rachal had 21 points on 6-of-9 field goal shooting. He was 8-of-11 at the line. He also grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds.
Tulsa made 23 of 32 free throws compared to 13 of 18 for ECU.
Jackson drove for a layup and completed a 3-point play with a foul shot to put the Golden Hurricane ahead to stay at 68-65 with 1:58 to go. Another drive for a score by Jackson extended the margin to 70-65 with 1:28 remaining.
The Pirates got no closer than four points the rest of the way in slipping to 7-6 overall and 1-6 in the AAC with their fifth straight league loss.
A balanced attack for Tulsa (9-6, 6-4) included Rey Idowu with 16 points, Austin Richie (14), Joyner (11) and Jackson (10).
Tremont Robinson-White had 15 points for ECU and J.J. Miles added 13. Gardner led the Pirates in rebounding with eight. Miles had six assists, Brandon Suggs had five and Robinson-White dished out four.
ECU is scheduled to host No. 6 Houston on Wednesday at 6 p.m. The Cougars (14-1, 9-1) have a home game against Southern Methodist (9-3, 5-3) on Sunday at 1 p.m.