EditorsNote: adds new last graf
No. 24 Wichita State used balance to overcome another big game by East Carolina forward Jayden Gardner and claim a 75-69 win Wednesday in each team’s American Athletic Conference opener in Wichita, Kan.
Four players scored in double figures for the Shockers (12-1, 1-0), led by Erik Stevenson with 17 points, nine rebounds, five assists and five steals. Jamarius Burton added 15 points, while Tyson Etienne and Trey Wade each chipped in 11.
Gardner pumped in a game-high 29 points on 12-of-20 shooting for the Pirates (6-8, 0-1), his sixth consecutive game with at least 20, and also grabbed 10 rebounds. J.J. Miles added 12 points, and Tremont Robinson-White scored 11.
East Carolina trailed the entire game until Bitumba Baruti hit a layup to give it a 45-44 lead with 12:46 remaining. But Jaime Echenique’s layup 24 seconds later kicked off a 21-9 run that boosted the Shockers’ lead to a game-high 11 points with 6:38 left.
The Pirates drew within 70-67 at the 1:54 mark as Gardner put back his missed shot, but Wichita State made 5 of 8 free throws in the last minute to salt the outcome away. East Carolina never had the ball with a chance to tie.
Playing its first game as a ranked team since the 2018 NCAA Tournament, Wichita State came out of the gates flying. It scored the first nine points and didn’t permit an East Carolina bucket until Robinson-White converted a driving layup 2:43 into the contest.
The Pirates gained traction after that and worked their way into contention. When Miles stroked a 3-pointer from the top of the key at the 11:38 mark, they trailed only 19-17. A Burton 3-ball pushed the Shockers back to a nine-point lead at 30-21 with 5:41 left.
The teams went back and forth for the half’s remainder, with Wichita State taking a 37-30 lead to the locker room. Both teams went 13 of 27 from the field before the break, but the Shockers were 7 of 13 at the foul line, while East Carolina made the only attempt it got.
Overall on the night, East Carolina outshot Wichita State from the floor 49.2 percent to 43.9 percent, but the Shockers were 16 of 29 on free throws while the Pirates were 7 of 9.
--Field Level Media