East Carolina rattled the cages of the Memphis Tigers at the FedExForum on Wednesday night, but in the end it was the home team that stood firm with a 70-58 win that sent the Pirates to their third straight defeat.
Memphis (13-7, 6-3 American) closed the game on an 8-0 run in the final 3:30, with four points apiece from Austin Nichols, who finished with 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting to lead Memphis, and Nick King.
The Pirates battled back from an early second half 17-point deficit to cut the lead to four, 62-58, with 3:50 left, but didn't score again.
"Our transition offense I thought was pretty good in the second half, ECU Head Coach Jeff Lebo said. "We pushed it and they had a hard time getting back to our shooters and we got some transition 3s."
East Carolina (8-12, 1-6) began the second half on a 16-6 run to pull within five, 45-40, with 14:54 to play as the Pirates made four consecutive 3-pointers, the first two from Caleb White followed by one from Terry Whisnant and another by Paris Roberts-Campbell.
Whisnant scored 17 points, shooting 5 of 7 from 3, and White added 10 for East Carolina, who made eight 3s after halftime and buried a season-high 13 triples and ended the game shooting 48.1 percent (13-27) outside the arc.
Memphis pushed its lead back out 12, 56-44, over the next five minutes before ECU's began its next 3-point barrage. Whisnant made two more 3s, Roberts-Campbell added a third and Antonio Robinson capped the long range bombing over a 4:10 stretch to get back within five, 61-56, with 4:44 to play and forcing the Tigers to take a timeout to regroup.
Nichols made 1 of 2 free throws out of the time out for the Tigers before Whisnant sank two free throws for the Pirates. It was their final points of the game.
After King's jumper made it a six-point game, ECU failed to answer and Michael Zangari was whistled for an intentional foul as he tried to stop Nichols' layup. He made both free throws and Memphis stopped ECU on its ensuing possession with Trashon Burrell's block leading to a layup by King, giving the Tigers a 10-point lead with 1:37 remaining.
King and Burrell each added 11 points as King also grabbed seven rebounds and Burrell had three blocks.
Memphis started the game on a 24-9 spurt and built a 39-24 halftime lead.
The Tigers shot a season-high 53.8 percent (28-52) from the field, while East Carolina recorded its best shooting percentage on the road this season at 43.8 percent. The Tigers edged ECU on the boards, 28-24, but once again the Pirates' foe dominated inside and outscored them 34-12.
ECU starting forward Michel Ofik-Nzege went to the locker early in the second half with an unspecified injury and did not return.