GREENVILLE — East Carolina overcame a 16-point first half deficit to take a 77-75 win over Mercer in the coaching debut of Michael Schwartz in Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum on Tuesday night.
Brandon Johnson had 24 points and Javon Small added 23 points for the Pirates.
“Proud of the guys for the grit and the resilience they showed tonight,” Schwartz said. “Obviously in a lot of areas we have to be better. Brandon was fantastic for the entire game. Javon, very strong second half that we really needed.”
ECU trailed, 37-21, with 2:42 left in the first half.
“We were finally able to get the defensive pressure to create some offense for us,” Schwartz said. “It gave us some momentum going into halftime.”
The Pirates closed within 39-30 at the half and pulled even at 57 on a 3-pointer by Johnson with 10:26 to go.
A 3-point play by Small put ECU ahead to stay at 60-59 with 8:08 remaining. R.J. Felton dropped a three that gave the Pirates their biggest lead at 73-67 with 3:30 to go.
Felton had 11 points for the Pirates. Johnson had a team-high seven rebounds and Small paced ECU in assists with five. Small had 17 points after intermission.
The Bears were led by 18 points from Jalyn McCreary.
Mercer hit just 13 of 31 from the field over the last 20 minutes after making 15 of 25 in the first half, 60 percent.
The Pirates host Presbyterian (1-0) on Saturday at 4 p.m. (ESPN+).