East Carolina was tasked with the challenge of traveling to a North Carolina team upset after a 60-55 loss to Iowa on Wednesday. The Tar Heels bounced back from it at ECU’s expense by administering a 108-64 trouncing.
The Pirates struggled throughout the game to hit their stride. They found the shots, but were unable to take advantage of the opportunities. Beyond the arc, they only made four of their 25 attempts and finished 33 percent from the field.
“We couldn’t play our best offensive lineup in the game,” said ECU head coach and former UNC basketball player Jeff Lebo. “I had Caleb White at (power forward) and they just went right at him inside.”
Whisnant added, “We had a tough matchup today. I think they dominated us inside. (They have) a lot of athletes and bigs.”
ECU’s lack of size continued to be a factor, just as it has all season. UNC got everything it wanted and more down low. The Tar Heels has six players standing at 6-foot-8 or taller while ECU only had three. Thanks to that, they scored 72 of their 108 points in the paint.
The Tar Heels’ size also helped them dominate the glass. They outrebounded the Pirates 26-15 and scored 10 points off of offensive rebounds.
“They just punished us around the rim,” said Lebo. “We had no answer for that. They were just too big, too strong and too long for us.”
ECU kept pace with the Tar Heels very early on. The Pirates made the game’s first basket and led by one about five minutes into the game. Isaiah Hicks started and finished a 7-0 run for UNC with emphatic dunks that blew the roof off the Dean Dome.
The momentum would remain on UNC’s side. The visiting Pirates would trim their deficit to one possession, but UNC would jump out to a double-digit lead with over eight minutes still to go in the half.
The Pirates were able to hit a stride in the second half. It took almost 23 minutes, but Terry Whisnant finally made the game’s first three.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had a shooting game like that,” said Whisnant, who finished with 15 points. “We had a lot of open looks, too, I felt like. We just couldn’t capitalize off them and that hurt us a lot, too.”
This young ECU basketball team will take this as a learning experience, especially for the younger players.
“They competed hard,” said Lebo about the team’s freshmen. “I think one thing I worry about in these games with my team, they get gassed early. The emotion of the game. They got worn out early…That happens when you’re not used to playing in this kind of environment.”
Lebo and UNC head coach Roy Williams shared a few words after the game, too. Lebo said that the first thing he asked Williams is when golf season starts.