by Dan M | Posted on Sunday, January 12th, 2020

Image result for SMU vs East Carolina Basketball January 11, 2020

BY:  Dic Humphrey                                                                                                                                                                                  Member United States Basketball Writers Association

The East Carolina University Pirates forged a strong second half comeback to overtake the SMU Mustangs for a 71-68 win Saturday afternoon at the Minges Coliseum in Greenville, North Carolina.  The Pirates overcame a 13 point second half deficit with Jayden Gardner, the leading scorer in the American Athletic Conference, spearheading the charge by scoring 20 points.  Tristen Newton hit a clutch three point basket with 2.7 seconds left in the game to provide the winning margin.  ECU improves to 8-8 for the season and 2-1 in conference play.  The loss ended SMU’s four-game winning streak and drops the Ponies’ record to 12-3 and 2-1.

East Carolina hit their first four shots of the game, three of which were from beyond the three point arc, to take an early 11-3 lead, which was their largest of the game.  SMU answered with a 14-2 run to seemingly take charge of the game.  The Mustangs went on to lead at halftime 38-27.  They had held Gardner to six points, turned the ball over just twice, and held a 17-15 rebound lead.

“I thought we played unbelievably well in the first half.  I thought we were as good as we could hope to be.  I thought we were GREAT!” SMU head Coach Tim Jankovich said in his post-game interview on the Mustang radio network.  “We took control of the game.”

The Ponies scored first to start the second half and took their largest lead of the game at 13 points.  Not much else went well for the Mustangs after intermission.  The Pirates chipped away and finally took a lead at 52-51, with 10:06 left in regulation.  In retrospect, that was probably the turning point of the game.  The Mustangs answered with a three point basket to re-take the lead within 25 seconds on the game clock, but the damage was done.  The home crowd was in the game, and the East Carolina players had it in their heads that they could pull off the upset.

SMU’s largest lead thereafter was five points with 4:18 left in regulation.  Isiah Mike hit a three point shot to put the Mustangs in front 64-59.  Unfortunately, that was the final basket SMU made in the game.  Their last four points came on free throws, the last two of which came from Tyson Jolly to tie the game at 68 with 12 seconds left.  East Carolina quickly got the ball down court driving toward the basket and kicking the pass out to Newton in the corner, who calmly sank the game winning three point shot.  There were 2.7 seconds remaining for SMU to counter.  The Mustangs threw the long pass to Tyson Jolly near mid-court, whose desperation shot hit the back of the rim and bounced away.

“The disappointing thing to me was the second half,” Jankovich said.  “We were complacent.  Our defense early on gave them hope.  It changed the momentum of the game.  Give them a lot of credit.  They played very, very well.  We just weren’t the same team in the second half that we were in the first half.  They made a great shot in the corner for the game winner.  I feel like it’s a game we could have and should have won.”

Isiah Mike led the Mustangs with 21 points.  He hit five three point shots in nine attempts.  Kendric Davis, who fouled out in the final two minutes, scored 13, and Emmanuel Bandoumel, off the bench, also scored in double digits with 11 points.  Feron Hunt led SMU with eight rebounds.

The statistic that most defines the loss is the Mustangs’ three point shooting.  The Mustangs shot 30 of 52 field goal attempts from beyond the three point arc, but hit just eight (26.7%).  The only game with more three point attempts for SMU was the Georgia game, which went two overtimes.  

Gardner finished with 20 points to lead ECU.  Tyrie Jackson, Tremont Robinson-White, and Newton were the rest of the double digit scorers.  They each put in 11 points.  Gardner was the leading rebounder in the game with nine.

The road doesn’t get any easier for the Mustangs next week.  They face the Houston Cougars in the Fertitta Center Wednesday night at 8:00 PM Central.  Houston is 12-4 overall this season and 2-1 in conference.  The game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.


  • The loss ended SMU’s 10-game winning streak over East Carolina.  The last East Carolina win over SMU came when both schools were members of Conference-USA.  SMU now leads the all-time series with ECU 15-5.        

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