Jayden Gardner

ECU sophomore forward Jayden Gardner.

While the highlight of the weekend was the East Carolina University (2-5, 0-0 AAC) men’s basketball team winning against University of Evansville (4-3, 0-0 MVC), the rest of the Islands of the Bahamas Showcase did not end well for the Pirates.

The Pirates played their third game of the showcase on Sunday night against Rice University (6-3, 0-0 C-USA). While ECU led the Owls by five points into halftime with a score of 32-27, they lost the lead in the second half to lose the game 69-77.

East Carolina’s field goal percentage increased from 33.3% (12-for-36) in the first half to 38.9% (14-for-36) in the second. They finished the game sinking 16-of-22 free throws (72.2%) while grabbing 45 rebounds.

Junior guard Tyrie Jackson scored 20 points making him the Pirates highest scorer for the game. ECU’s leading rebounder was sophomore forward Jayden Gardner and the leader for assists was freshman guard Tristen Newton.

Saturday the Pirates faced University of Missouri at Kansas City (4-4, 0-0 WAC) for the semi-finals of the Islands of the Bahamas Showcase. East Carolina entered halftime with a 16 point deficit to the Roos (26-42). They then battled back in the second half and closed the gap to only six points, but ultimately lost the game 68-74.

"We did show some fight and some grit today," head coach Joe Dooley said in a press release after Saturday’s game. "It was good to see (junior guard) J.J. Miles see the ball go in the basket. That's the only positive thing I can take from tonight, and free throw shooting. Everything else I thought we did a very poor job of, including coaching."

UMKC shot 53% from the field in the first half and made 6-of-11 three point shots, while the Pirates shot 34.5% and gave up eight points off five turnovers. ECU shot an impressive 91.4% from the free throw line, sinking 66.7% (4-of-6) in the first half and 96.6% (28-of-29) in the second, making 26 of them consecutively before a miss.

Freshman forward/guard Brandon Suggs was the leading scorer for the Pirates with 14 points. Gardner made his second consecutive double-double of the weekend with 11 points and 13 rebounds. Miles also came off the bench to score 13 points for ECU.

ECU started the weekend against Evansville. The Pirates played a good defensive game, forcing the Purple Aces to shoot from the outside. ECU held a consistent lead throughout the game and won with a 85-68 score. The closest the Ace came during play was four points in the second half with 15:23 left on the clock.

"We guarded a lot better and we definitely kept people in front of us," Dooley said. "I thought our defensive positioning was pretty good, we did foul a little too much at the end and in some spurts. When we didn't turn the ball over, I thought our offense actually got going pretty good."

The Pirates increased their field goal percentage from 44.8 (13-of-29) in the first to 63 (17-of-27) in the second half, giving them a 53.6% total. They also scored 75% from the free throw line, making 21-of-28 of their free throws.

Gardner accomplished his first double-double of the weekend with 28 points and 10 rebounds, helping him to four double-doubles so far this season. Newton led the game in assists with five and was the Pirates second leading scorer with 18 points. Redshirt senior forward Seth LeDay also scored 12 points and 8 rebounds.

East Carolina will travel to Harrisonburg, Virginia next weekend to play against James Madison University (4-2, 0-0 CAA). The game is scheduled for Saturday at 4 p.m.

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