GREENVILLE, N.C. -- East Carolina commemorated Temple coach Fran Dunphy’s final trip to Minges Coliseum by presenting him with some barbecue sauce and a statue of a pig during a pregame ceremony Wednesday.

The Owls then gave him an even more meaningful present by scoring 21 of the first 23 points in their game against the Pirates.

As it turned out, they needed almost every bit of that head start as ECU battled back to within one point early in the second half. But thanks to the long-range shooting of Shizz Alston, Temple quickly regained control and pulled away for an 85-74 American Athletic Conference victory.

“We were in a little bit of trouble, but Shizz rescued us a little bit,” Dunphy said. “When you have that kind of senior leadership, you feel comfortable -- not to the point where you feel everything’s going to turn out okay. But I was pleased with how we came back and spaced the game toward the end.”

The Owls (14-3, 4-1 AAC) began the game with a barrage of three-pointers after ECU’s freshman star Jayden Gardner scored on the opening possession to give his team its only lead of the night. Alston hit three from long range while De’Vondre Perry added another during a 21-0 run that led Pirates coach Joe Dooley to call a pair of timeouts.

Instead of blowing the game open, though, Temple allowed ECU to climb back into contention with some sloppy play that included a pair of unsuccessful alley-oop attempts and six first-half turnovers.

“We look to hit the home run when we get up like that on teams,” Alston said. “We’ve got to learn how to relax, slow down and keep doing what we did to get us there.”

The Pirates (8-9, 1-4) began their comeback by scoring 10 straight points over a 2½-minute stretch midway through the period. ECU’s momentum continued into the second half, which began with Gardner and Seth LeDay leading a 17-5 spurt that got the Pirates back within one at 42-41.

But that’s as close as it got.

Alston hit a three-pointer from the right corner, followed by a fastbreak dunk by Nate Pierre-Louis and a three by Quinton Rose to stem the tide and effectively put the young Pirates away.

Alston finished the game with seven three-pointers, tying the career high he set earlier this season in a win against Detroit Mercy. He led Temple with 23 points while Rose added 19 points and Pierre-Louis 16 to help the Owls extend their best start since 2009-10. Big man Ernest Aflakpui also chipped in which 12 points and 12 rebounds.

As a team, Temple shot an even 50 percent (11 of 22) from beyond the arc.

“Coming off the shootaround, I liked the court, I liked the rims and I felt like I could make some shots,” said Alston, who made his 200th career three-pointer in the game. “When the game started, I knew I would take some if I got open..”