|Terry Whisnant had seven points and a team-high nine rebounds.|
Pirates Fail to Measure Up Against Huskies
With weather outside that looked more like what you’d expect to see in Storrs, Connecticut, than Greenville, N.C., a season-high 6,858 fans showed up at Minges Coliseum to watch the Pirates face the Connecticut Huskies Wednesday night. However, similar to a game that was played in Storrs on Feb. 4, the East Carolina basketball team outplayed the reigning national champions for large stretches of the first half and went into the locker room with a lead — that it eventually let slip threw its fingers. The Huskies outscored the Pirates 36-16 in the second half on their way to a 60-49 victory to sweep the first ever season series between the two schools. It was the first time the Pirates (12-16, 5-10 AAC) had hosted a defending national champ and, in the end, they failed to measure up to the visitors’ caliber. “We’ve got a long way to grow to get to the top (of the conference) or to the middle,” fifth-year ECU coach Jeff Lebo said. UConn (16-11, 9-6 AAC) forward Amida Brimah played just 18 minutes due to foul trouble, but was easily the difference in the game in his abbreviated minutes. Brimah blocked six shots to along with his 12 points as the Huskies outscored the Pirates 30-14 when he was on the floor. “Obviously, in the second half, the difference maker was (Brimah). He totally affected the game in all areas,” Lebo said. “He’s as a good a shot-blocker that I’ve seen. He probably took away points that we’ve had and blocked some shots that were at the peak two feet over the top of the rim.”
ECU forward Marshall Guilmette, who finished with a team-high 13 points, added, “They definitely rely on him for interior defense. As a perimeter player, it’s nice to have someone like that behind you ... You can tell they have a lot more confidence when he’s behind them.”
After a Terry Whisnant 3-pointer put ECU up 9-6 early, the Pirates went exactly eight minutes without a basket on their way to shooting 3-for-16 from the floor to start the game.
However, UConn couldn’t pull away as a Guilmette lay-up began a 13-1 ECU run that saw the Pirates hit their next six shots to take a 23-15 lead. Then, with Brimah on the bench with two fouls, it was B.J. Tyson scoring ECU’s last six points of the half, including a floater just before the clocked expired, to stretch his team’s advantage to 33-24 at halftime.
Prior to the Huskies’ explosion to start the second half, third-year coach Kevin Ollie had an outburst of his own in the visiting locker room.
“It wasn’t pretty,” UConn guard and Plymouth, N.C., native Rodney Purvis described Ollie’s message at halftime. “He came out and I think he almost broke his hand beating up the board and screaming. We deserved that.”
What came next was five straight points for the Huskies to start the second half that soon turned into a 14-2 run that allowed them to retake the lead. Thirteen of those 14 points were scored by freshman Daniel Hamilton, who finished with 9 points (all in the second half) and a game-high 17 rebounds, and Brimah.
Then Purvis responded to the jeers he frequently received from the big crowd at Minges Coliseum by hitting three second-half 3s on his way to 12 points and assisting on senior Ryan Boatright’s dagger trey that made it 52-45 with 3:55 to go. Boatright, the American Conference’s leading scorer, finished with a game-high 16 points.
ECU shot an abysmal 19 percent in the second half (6-for-31) and finished 3-for-20 from 3-point range in the full 40 minutes.
“Every loss hurts,” said Guilmette. “We had a great crowd and you want to play well for a big crowd. And we let them down in the second half.”
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