Pirates hang tough in loss

Taking heart in a loss should never become commonplace to any diehard sports fan, but for East Carolina basketball fans their team's 10 point, 76-66 loss to eighth ranked Louisville has to be encouraging.

We're not talking about UAB or UNCC here. Louisville's very own Francisco Garcia summed it up when he said, ''It's a big win. They've got a great crowd. They were in the game the whole 40 minutes.'' Indeed, probably no other team they have played thus far including Kentucky was able to handle the Cardinals' full court press better than the Pirates.

Playing without their second leading scorer Gabriel Mikulas whose career ended with a broken arm sustained in practice the Pirates hung tough with the Cardinals. Had ECU been able prevent a strong Louisville run at the beginning of the second half along with and converted on its free throws things could have been much more interesting. The Cardinals (12-1, 3-0 Conference USA) won their 12th consecutive game and fifth straight by double digits. Louisville is second nationally in scoring margin at over 23 points per game.

The Cardinals were able to quickly extend a 38-28 halftime advantage into a 20-point 48-28 on the strength of two consecutive 3-pointers by Taquan Dean, and a dunk by Larry O'Bannon. Dean and O'Bannon finished the game with 16 points apiece. The Pirates could convert only 11 of 18 free throw attempts including the front end of several one-an-ones.

Once again, turnovers also haunted ECU. The Pirates lost the ball 16 times against Louisville, now having committed 73 over their 4-game losing skid. However, despite it all, ECU found itself within 8 points of the Cardinals with almost two minutes to play.

Clutch free throw shooting by Louisville down the stretch kept the Pirates from getting any closer. Leading the way for East Carolina Derrick Wiley who scored 23 points for East Carolina (8-5, 0-3), which lost its ninth consecutive conference game dating to last season.

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