MEMPHIS — East Carolina sought to follow up on a stunning triumph at home against No. 5 Houston earlier in the week as the Pirates took on Memphis, which had blasted COVID-depleted ECU, 80-53, on Jan. 24.
The Pirates battled back from a 21-8 deficit midway through the first half on Saturday to lead, 47-41, with 11 minutes remaining before the Tigers took a 66-59 American Athletic Conference win at the FedEx Forum.
ECU coach Joe Dooley cited Memphis’s eight offensive rebounds in the second half and the Pirates’ 10 turnovers in the final 20 minutes as costly factors.
ECU had just seven turnovers for the game in an 82-73 victory over Houston on Wednesday night.
“You have to take care of the ball if you want to win a game like this on the road,” Dooley said.
Jayden Gardner led the Pirates with 23 points and nine rebounds. Gardner hit two free throws with 5:19 to go to give ECU its last lead at 54-53.
The Tigers closed the game with a 13-5 run to improve to 12-6 overall and 8-3 in the AAC.
ECU (8-7, 2-7) got 10 points from Brandon Suggs. Tristen Newton and Tremont Robinson-White each had five points and four assists. Ludgy Debaut and Bitumba Baruti added four points apiece.
The Pirates made just one of 13 shots from beyond the arc and Memphis had a 37-27 rebounding advantage.
Landers Nolley II and D.J. Jeffries had 12 points each for the Tigers. Alex Lomax had 10 points and nine assists.
ECU hosts Southern Methodist (10-4) on Monday at 5 p.m. The Mustangs topped the Pirates, 70-55, in Dallas on Dec. 16. SMU’s home game with South Florida on Saturday was postponed.
“We’ve got another tough one on Monday,” Dooley said. “These guys have got to be able to bounce back, recalibrate and learn from the mistakes we made.”