BY AARON BEARD, AP Basketball writer
GREENVILLE, NC (AP) – Jayden Gardner had 21 points and 15 rebounds to help East Carolina stun the fifth Houston 82-73 on Wednesday night, securing the Pirates’ first win over a senior opponent in nearly two Decades.
Tremont Robinson-White added 17 points for East Carolina, defying the season’s offensive battles against one of the nation’s best defensive teams. East Carolina shot 47% and made 11 of 24 3-pointers – and what was more impressive was that in the last 12+ minutes the Pirates were up against a Houston team that struggled to make much of anything after half time.
East Carolina (8-6, 2-6 American Athletic Conference) hadn’t won a game in more than a month between five straight losses and three postponements. But the Pirates found a memorable way to end a 33-game losing streak against AP Top 25 teams, despite the lack of fans storming the field in celebration and limited numbers of attendees at the Minges Coliseum due to the coronavirus -Pandemic.
Houston (15-2, 10-2) was KenPom’s second largest defense, accepting 86 points per 100 possessions while also being ranked as one of the best rebounding teams in the nation. But the Cougars didn’t do much to hold down the pirates in either category while their offensive stuttered.
DeJon Jarreau finished his career with 25 points, leading the Cougars who had won nine straight meetings since 2015, including double-digit margin gains over the past four seasons at ECU’s home stadium. However, top scorer Quentin Grimes fought with just seven points in the 2-10 shootout.
Houston: The Cougars moved up to 5th in the last AP Top 25 on Monday, marking their second stint of the season there. This is the program’s highest rank since the 1983/84 season, in which the Cougars led by Hakeem Olajuwon reached the NCAA title game. They had also won all eight games since the beginning of 2021. However, after halftime (25.8%) they only made 8 out of 31 shots, while ending with a 37:36 rebound.
ECU: East Carolina hadn’t won since their home game against Tulane on December 22nd. And the Pirates hadn’t beaten a ranked team since a Marquette team led by Dwyane Wade rioted in 13th place in December 2002. Those skids are over.
Houston: The Cougars are hosting the NAIA Our Lady of the Lake program on Saturday, a game that was added to the schedule on Wednesday. Houston will then return to AAC and visit South Florida next Wednesday.
ECU: The pirates are visiting Memphis on Saturday.
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