HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — No. 20 SMU (25-6) ended ECU's season with a 74-68 victory at XL Center Friday afternoon.
American Conference player of the year Nic Moore
scored 20 points and No. 20 SMU
held off East Carolina
74-68 Friday in the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference.
added 15 points and six rebounds for the top-seeded Mustangs (25-6).
SMU lost in their opening game of the conference tournament a year ago, costing them an NCAA bid. This year, the Mustangs were tied with the eighth-seeded Pirates at 64 with 4 ½ minutes left.
But SMU closed the game on a 10-4 run, hitting eight free throws down the stretch to win their first conference tournament game in nine years.
and Antonio Robinson
each had 18 points for East Carolina, which made 15 of its 35 3-point shots, but missed its last six attempts from behind the arc. The Pirates finish the season at 14-18.
East Carolina's first six shots Friday were all from 3-point range and they made five of them, taking an early 19-9 lead while holding SMU to 4 of 14 shooting during that span.
SMU responded with a 19-3 run, taking a 28-22 lead on a Cannen Cunningham
layup. Moore had 11 first-half points and SMU scored 15 points on eight Pirate turnovers to take a 37-32 lead into the half.
SMU led by seven points after the opening bucket of the second half.
But East Carolina went on a 16-5 run, taking a 48-44 lead on Antonio Robinson's four 3-pointers.
Moore responded with a 3-pointer that sparked a 10-0 run for the Mustangs, who retook the lead on a dunk by Ben Moore
But ECU stayed in the game by hitting 3-pointers.
An 11-2 run, featuring 3s from Robinson, Paris Campbell and Whisnant put them back on top 62-61.
ECU was 11 of 30 from 3-point range during the team's first meeting, a 77-54 SMU victory.
Kennedy put the Mustangs up for good with a conventional 3-point play that made it 67-64. The league's sixth man of the year hit two more to push the lead to 69-64 after drawing the fifth foul on ECU's Marshal Guilmette.
SMU had 17 second-chance points and forced 15 East Carolina turnovers.
East Carolina lost three of its last four regular-season games heading into the tournament and needed overtime Thursday to beat UCF by a point.
SMU: The Mustangs dominated inside, outscoring ECU 44-16 in the paint, and 17-2 on second-chance opportunities. ...The Mustangs only loss in their last eight games came on this court two weeks ago to UConn.
EAST CAROLINA: The Pirates had won four of their last six meetings with SMU, but lost their only regular-season matchup this year by 23 points. Pirates coach Jeff Lebo
played for SMU's Larry Brown when Brown coached the NBA's San Antonio Spurs.
SMU: Plays winner of Friday's quarterfinal matchup between Temple and Memphis.
East Carolina: Season over.