Pirates Batter Dukes with Second-Half Surge
Rebounding has been a constant struggle for the East Carolina men’s basketball team during the opening month of the season. Even if, on paper, some sort of size advantage existed — as it did when the Pirates hosted James Madison Saturday afternoon — fifth-year coach Jeff Lebo has always been leery as to what he can expect from his team on the glass. “I never know that at all, but I’ll tell you this: we work on it every day. It’s just a weakness for us,” said Lebo after ECU out-rebounded the visiting Dukes 38-26 on its way to a 70-58 victory at Minges Coliseum. “I work on growing my hair every day, but I’m still bald. We’ve still got to work on it every day.” The Pirates’ 12 offensive rebounds directly led to 13 second-chance points and the teams’ 28 points in the paint. In addition to grabbing seven rebounds, ECU (5-5) shooting guard Terry Whisnant dialed up four 3-pointers on his way to a career-high 24 points to lead the charge in his team’s bounce-back win. In a back-and-forth second half, sophomore Caleb White became the difference in the game. Trailing 51-49 with just over seven minutes left, White engineered an 8-0 run with five of his 16 points — all in the second half — to put the game away. “It was just pure energy,” White said of the essential run down the stretch. “Once you’re hype like that, then it’s pretty much a wrap from there. You tend to play a lot better once you have things like that going your way. You don’t think as much, you play with a lot more confidence and I think that’s what really got us over the hump.” The Dukes (6-3), aided by a quartet of 3-pointers and an early full-court press that White said caught the Pirates “off guard,” strung together a 13-0 run to build a 14-3 lead. The remainder of a low-scoring first half was an uphill battle for ECU, but it fought back with a 12-3 spurt, capped by forward Michel Nzege’s stick-back basket, to trim the deficit to 17-15 and eventually drew even, 23-23, with 2:20 remaining in the first half. “When they were going on the 13-0 run, we just preached to stay calm,” said White. “It was just simple mistakes that were easily correctable. So once we calmed down, the adrenaline got under control, we started thinking more clearly and the turnovers got cut down some at least.” Primarily because of 14 first-half turnovers, the Pirates trailed the Dukes 28-25 at halftime. Freshman guard B.J. Tyson scored ECU’s final eight points of the half on his way to 14 points. But in the final 20 minutes, the Pirates limited their mistakes, cutting their first-half total by having just seven turnovers for the rest of the game. It wasn’t until the 16:40 mark that ECU took its first lead — 33-32 on a Whisnant jumper — since jumping in front 3-1 and it marked the first of four lead changes in the second half. Pirates’ sophomore forward Marshall Guilmette ended his seven-game hiatus, which was served due to injury, but struggled to be effective. He played six minutes and could muster just a rebound to go along with three turnovers. Senior shooting guard Paris Roberts-Campbell, who started every game last year, dressed for the first time this season Saturday, but did not check in as he continues to recover from a nagging knee injury. About an hour before tipoff, he was seen working out on a stationary bike and Lebo said he could return as early as next weekend. The Pirates will be finished with final exams for the fall semester by Thursday, which is two days ahead of their road matchup with UNC Wilmington. Tip-off for the in-state matchup is set for 7 p.m.
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