Pirates Experience Growing Pains in Home Loss

GREENVILLE, N.C. — ECU's (1-1) inexperience showed in a 83-79 loss to UNC Asheville (1-1) Sunday afternoon at Minges Coliseum.

The East Carolina men’s basketball team is not a finished product. Far from it — and that was made clear in the Pirates’ 83-79 home loss to UNC Asheville Sunday afternoon.

Time and time again, the Bulldogs (1-1) drove to the rim and got whatever it wanted. UNC Asheville dominated ECU (1-1) on the glass 42-26 and got tremendous scoring outputs from a pair of underclassmen. Sophomore sharpshooter Andrew Rowsey supplied a game-high 28 points and freshman forward Kem Ubaru added 17 more while grabbing a game-high nine rebounds.

Fifth-year coach Jeff Lebo has broken in several new faces into ECU’s lineup, many of which are freshmen that are still adjusting to the speed of the Division I college basketball. Also, the Pirates are also recovering from the loss of two key players — shooting guard Paris Roberts-Campbell (knee) and forward Michael Zangari (fractured cheek bone) — whose experience was missed while their team was attempting to stage a second-half rally.

“You miss them. I’m not going to make any excuses; Asheville deserved to win this game, but they took advantage of that,” Lebo said of being without Roberts-Campbell and Zangari. “Rowsey, he is terrific. He is just a tough guy to guard one-on-one and he was the second leading (freshman) scorer … in the country.”

Rowsey was 15 for 16 at the free throw line, where the Bulldogs shot 82 percent as a team (28 of 34). Conversely, the Pirates left some points at the stripe, converting just 20 of their 30 attempts. Although the Pirates trimmed the Bulldogs’ lead, which stretched as large as 16 points, to 75-70 in the final minute, the game was never really in doubt down the stretch.

After scoring 14 points in ECU’s 99-81 victory in Friday’s season opener, sophomore Caleb White logged 24 points on 7 of 12 shooting (4 for 9 on 3s) to lead the team’s five double-figure scorers, which included the Pirates’ dynamic duo of freshmen guards B.J. Tyson (12 points) and Lance Tejada (14). Fellow newcomer Terry Whisnant finished with 11 points.

However, with a large crop of newcomers and the installation of a new offense come some growing pains that White says will take some to get used to.

“We haven’t really gotten everything down pat or found where we’d like to score the ball the majority of the time. It’s still a work-in-progress, but we’ll get there,” White said.

Both teams struggled to score out of the game — combining to shoot 6 for 26 — and despite starting the game 1 for 9 from the field and falling behind 6-0, UNC Asheville wasted little time gaining the lead halfway through the first half on an Ubaru layup. When Ubaru broke a 13-13 tie with a free throw, the Bulldogs never looked back nor surrendered their lead.

UNC Asheville led 38-28 at halftime and built a far more comfortable advantage early in the second half with three consecutive made-baskets from three-point range that extended its advantage to 47-33.

On ensuing possession, Rowsey was charged with a foul and then a technical after disagreeing with the official’s call, which sparked a 7-0 ECU run that trimmed the deficit to 47-40.

But the Bulldogs always had an answer to any potential threat; they went on an 11-2 spurt to capture their largest lead at 58-42, effectively putting the game out of reach.

ECU will close its three-game home stand to open the season Thursday when it hosts Virginia-Lynchburg. Tip-off time is set for 7 p.m.

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