The Pirates had five scorers in double digits on their way to a 99-81 victory in their season opener against N.C. Wesleyan Friday night. Perhaps one of the most impressive parts about East Carolina’s win were the new faces that contributed.
Freshman guard B.J. Tyson led the Pirates in scoring with 22 points against the Bishops (0-1) and also logged a game-high five steals and added six rebounds. Another new face, Winston-Salem State transfer, Michel-Ofik Nzege finished with a double-double in his first game as a Pirate scoring 18 points and reeling in 12 rebounds.
ECU (1-0) Head Coach Jeff Lebo has been impressed with Nzege since his arrival.
“(Nzege) has a really great motor and plays hard,” said Lebo after the win. “He can change ends of the floor and his effort is so consistent every day. The way he played tonight is the way he practices every day. I always know exactly what I’m getting from him from an effort standpoint.”
ECU was a shocking 3-of-16 (18.8%) from three-point range against the Bishops and resorted more to driving the ball at the basket. Sophomore Marshall Guilmette helped the Pirates establish dominance in the paint throughout the game and impressed in his return after missing almost all of last season due to a knee injury.
Guilmette finished with 14 points and seven rebounds. He has been anticipating his return for quite some time.
“It was amazing to get back out there,” said Guilmette. “It’s been a long and tough road to recovery and I’ve been looking forward to this ever sense I went out. It was great to be out there again and we had a great crowd with great energy. I had a blast.”
Sophomore guard Caleb White did his part scoring 14 points for the Pirates and bringing in seven rebounds. Florida State transfer Terry Whisnant struggled from behind the arc making only 2-of-5 attempts, but finished with 14 points in his ECU debut.
Freshman point guard Lance Tejada struggled shooting the ball against Wesleyan, making only 2-of-8 field goals. Tejada would finish with eight points and three assists in his college debut.
Wesleyan put up a fight throughout the contest and rode an 18-4 run to bring the game to 70-60 with just under eight minutes to play. However, the Bishops squandered the opportunity by getting three technical fouls in next two minutes allowing ECU to go on a run of its own.
The Pirates made Wesleyan pay for its technical fouls by making 8-of-10 straight free throws. ECU then went on a 24-11 run and eventually extended its lead to 30 points leading 99-69 with just over three to play. The Bishops would close the game on a 12-0 run to push the final score to 99-81.
ECU finished with 22 turnovers in the game something it will have to work on moving forward as competition increases.
“Our ball security wasn’t good,” said Lebo. “Home run turnovers really hurt us because we can’t defend those, that’s something we’ll have to clean up. A lot of our turnovers were by our bigger guys not so much at the guard position.”
ECU will continue its season when it faces UNC Asheville Sunday Nov. 16 at 2 p.m.