WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State outlasted East Carolina 75-69 on Wednesday in the American Athletic Conference opener for both teams.
Erik Stevenson scored 10 of his 17 points after halftime for the Shockers (12-1, 1-0 American), who trailed midway through the second half thanks to East Carolina’s Jayden Gardner scoring 20 of his 29 points after halftime.
Gardner, who entered the game leading the American in scoring at 20.7 points a game, was 12 of 20 from the floor and had a game-high 10 rebounds.
“His 15-footer is almost automatic,” Marshall said. “He was able to get it a little more than we wanted.”
Wichita State shot out to a 9-0 lead, and East Carolina coach Joe Dooley admitted his team “got frazzled.”
But Gardner was not going to let them get blown out.
“It’s fun to play in an atmosphere like this,” Gardner said. “Once guys got adjusted to ir, we settled down and played well.”
The Pirates came all the way back to take a 45-44 lead on Bitumba Baruti‘s jumper in the lane with 12:46 remaining.
“I thought we weren’t playing aggressively enough,” Marshall said. “That’s one of the reasons they could keep scoring.”
Stevenson scored seven points over the next three minutes to push Wichita State back ahead 53-47.
“We have a lot of veteran guards,” Stevenson said, “and I think that helps us from getting too down about losing the lead, especially at home. We know we can turn that momentum around.”
East Carolina had two final-minute possessions down four or less that resulted in a turnover and a blocked shot, helping Wichita State seal the win.
“Ill-timed turnovers really hurt us,” Dooley said.
The Pirates return to action Tuesday, Jan. 7, at home against South Florida.