GREENVILLE, NC (UNCW Sports)–Junior forward Jayden Gardner scored eight of his 16 points in overtime and East Carolina survived a monster comeback by UNCW to carve out an 88-78 victory at Monday at Minges Coliseum.
The Pirates, 4-0, remained unbeaten on the new year – their best start since 2013-14 – while the Seahawks had their record squared at 2-2. The contest was the first of three games in six days for the Seahawks and first-year head coach Takayo Siddle.
Senior guard JJ Miles paced the Pirates with 22 points, senior guard Bitumba Baruti scored 17 and sophomore guard Tristen Newton had 10 to complement Gardner in the scoring column. The Pirates shot 50 percent in the first half before cooling down to 45.6 percent for the game.
Junior guard Jaylen Sims continued his early-season scoring surge, pouring in 28 points to anchor four players in double digits for the Seahawks, who shot 42.4 percent. Freshman guard Jahmari Harvey collected a career-high 14 points, senior guard Mike Okauru chipped in 12 and sophomore guard Joe Pridgen finished with 11 in his Seahawk debut.
The previous five matchups in the 67-game series saw the host team win on its home floor and Monday followed an identical script. ECU jumped out to a 51-37 lead at halftime until UNCW used a scorching 30-6 run to pull ahead by 10 points with seven minutes remaining.
A spinning jumper by Sims with 13 seconds left in regulation knotted the game at 73-all before a bucket at the buzzer by the Pirates was waved off. ECU then dominated in the extra period, outscoring UNCW, 15-5, in the five-minute session to improve to 21-13 against the Seahawks in Minges.
“We were sleepwalking in the first half,” said Siddle. “We didn’t play with enough energy, we didn’t do anything right and we didn’t play with enough toughness. We got what we deserved.
“In the second half, we came out and played like we’re capable and ended up taking the lead. We had three straight turnovers when we were ahead by 10 points and the momentum shifted. They got the game into overtime and their players made plays in the end.”
The Pirates, who totaled 16 three-pointers in their first three outings, connected on 9-of-15 in the opening period to put the Seahawks on their heels. Miles did most of the damage, draining 6-of-8 field goals and all four of his triple attempts en route to 16 points in the first period.
After Sims sank his first trifecta of the game at 13:28 to give the Seahawks a 17-15 edge, ECU reeled off nine straight points to grab a seven-point advantage and extended the margin to as many as 16 points, 51-35, in the final minute of the opening half.
The Seahawks continue their busy week on Wednesday when they host NAIA member St. Andrews (1-3) in the home opener at Trask Coliseum. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.