The East Carolina basketball team extended its season on Thursday, shooting 51 percent from the floor and making 10 3-pointers on the way to an 80-69 victory in the opening round of the American Athletic Conference tournament in Hartford, Conn. The ninth-seeded Pirates (15-17) never trailed on the way to beating the eighth-seeded Owls for the second time this season and advancing to the tournament quarterfinals for the second time in three seasons as an AAC member. Kentrell Barkley led the way for ECU with career-high totals of 26 points and 16 rebounds for his ninth double-double of the season while going 9 for 17 from the floor and 3 of 6 from 3-point range. His 16 rebounds tied a tournament record. “For us, it isn’t just a win simply for our basketball team, but a win for our program because we’re going against an outstanding coach and an outstanding team with great tradition and is one of the best programs in the country,” ECU acting coach Michael Perry said. “That’s the way it is most nights when we line up in the league. Our guys are determined to throw themselves into the fire and into the mix with the programs that are elite in our conference.” Temple staged a late bid to get back into the game by cutting ECU’s lead to just six late in the second half, but Caleb White scored four straight points to push the advantage back to 71-61 with 2:08 remaining. The Pirates eventually extended the lead to 15 on a 3-pointer by freshman Elijah Hughes, putting the Owls away. Hughes finished with 17 points for the Pirates, his first double-figure effort since Jan. 25. With the win, ECU advances into Friday’s quarterfinal against top-seeded SMU. The game will be televised by ESPN2 at noon. The Mustangs won both regular season meetings, winning 75-44 in Greenville and 86-46 in Dallas.
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