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No. 20 SMU survives Pirates

By Al Myatt
2015 Bonesville.net
All rights reserved.

HARTFORD, CT Top-seeded Southern Methodist withstood a challenge from eighth-seeded East Carolina for a 74-68 quarterfinal win in the American Athletic Conference tournament Friday afternoon at the XL Center.

The Pirates (14-18) attacked from beyond the arc, hitting 15 of 35 attempts from long range. Threes by Terry Whisnant, Marshall Guilmette, B.J. Tyson and Antonio Robinson helped ECU to an early 19-9 advantage.

Robinson had a career-high 18 points and a team-high six rebounds. Whisnant matched both of those numbers after going scoreless in an 81-80 overtime win over Central Florida in the first round of the AAC event on Thursday.

"I didn't shoot very well yesterday," Whisnant said. "Coach (Jeff Lebo) just talked to me. All my teammates talked to me because they want me to shoot the ball. So I came out today, wanted to be aggressive and wanted to get this win."

Caleb White had 14 points for the Pirates, who saw their early advantage wiped out by an 18-3 Mustangs run.

SMU, ranked No. 20 by the Associated Press, led 37-32 at the half but could not pull away as in a 77-54 win over ECU in Dallas on Jan. 17.

"We battled our tail off," Lebo said. "We shot the ball like we needed to shoot it to have a chance. Our defense was really good when we didn't turn the ball over."

The Pirates had 15 turnovers while SMU committed nine.

"We made some adjustments in the zone," Lebo said. "They didn't score much in the half court. On the first shot, defense was excellent. But we had some turnovers that they got out on the break and obviously their size inside was a big difference. But really proud of my group and, in particular, my seniors."

Robinson, who had six assists, and Paris Roberts-Campbell played their final game game for ECU. Roberts-Campbell made one of two field goal attempts, hitting a three that cut SMU's lead to 59-57 with 7:58 remaining.

Two free throws by Robinson put the Pirates ahead 62-61 with 6:10 to go. A pair of foul shots by White evened the score at 64 with 4:37 left before a 6-0 run by SMU over the next three-plus minutes proved too much for ECU to overcome.

SMU (25-6) got 20 points and five assists from 5-feet, 9-inch Nic Moore, the AAC Player of the Year. Markus Kennedy added 15 points and six rebounds for the Mustangs.

SMU made 19 of 28 free throws while ECU sank seven of eight foul shots. The Pirates were whistled for 20 fouls compared to nine for the Mustangs.

Guilmette fouled out with 3:11 to go after scoring eight points and grabbing five rebounds in 30 minutes. Tyson, a freshman, added seven points to finish the season with a team-high 12.7 scoring average.

PAGE UPDATED 03/14/15 01:13 AM.

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