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College Hoops in the Carolinas

View from the East
Monday, February 25, 2002

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

ECU in Prime Position for March Date in Cincy


Picked to finish last in the American Division of Conference USA, East Carolina is a notch above the basement and may have punched its ticket for the league tournament in Cincinnati beginning Wednesday, March 6.

ECU dramatically enhanced its chances for a spot in the tourney with a dominating second half at home in a 63-46 win over Houston on Saturday night.

Many thought the Pirates might go winless in C-USA this season. Not only were the Pirates going to lose, they said, they were going to lose big. But a lot of credit goes to coach Bill Herrion, the staff, the players and the enthusiastic home fans who have seen ECU’s four league wins.

“We came out with some pretty good intensity off the bat,” Herrion said after the Houston game. “These kids played so hard tonight.”

Teams tend to take on the personality of their coach. There are bigger names coaching in C-USA, but it’s difficult to conceive that any of them work harder than Herrion. The Pirates coach sweats so profusely that he sometimes changes shirts before postgame interviews.

Houston coach Ray McCallum, who came to Greenville as a one-point favorite, left with an appreciation for the effort the Pirates expended.

“They played with a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm and they showed great passion tonight,” said the Cougars coach. “Their home crowd was very supportive and they were able to feed off that. They did a great job of out-hustling us to the basketball. ... It was all East Carolina, quite honestly.”

ECU (11-16, 4-10 C-USA) continues to struggle on the road but when the Pirates shoot well, they can play with a lot of teams at home. If ECU has its shooting touch against Marquette on Tuesday night, the matchup with the nationally-ranked Golden Eagles — they used to be the Warriors — could be interesting. Maybe even court-storming, ESPN SportsCenter surprising.

A win would lock down a berth in the conference tournament. Going into the week, Southern Miss, which is 3-11 in C-USA, and DePaul, 2-12, are still mathematical possibilities to supplant the Pirates in the league tournament. The top 12 teams of the 14 basketball-playing members in the league make the field, and ECU currently has sole possession of that 12th spot.

DePaul would have to win its remaining games at home against Saint Louis on Tuesday night and — much tougher — at Marquette on Saturday. ECU would have to lose at home to Marquette at 7 p.m. on Tuesday night and at Texas Christian at 8:05 p.m. on Saturday to validate the Blue Demons’ hopes. That scenario would give ECU and DePaul 4-12 league records but DePaul would have the tiebreaker by virtue of its two regular season wins over the Pirates.

Southern Miss kept its prospects alive by beating TCU 81-68 on Saturday, but the Golden Eagles would have to win at UAB on Tuesday night and at home against South Florida on Saturday afternoon to squeeze past the Pirates if ECU was to lose its last two. Southern Miss needs to finish ahead of ECU to qualify for the league tournament because the Pirates won their only head-to-head meeting 61-58 in Greenville on February 12.

Based on the degree to which the Pirates have exceeded expectations in their first year in C-USA they are one of the success stories in the Carolinas despite the overall record. Let’s see how some others are faring in the State Line Hoops Report©:


State Line Hoops Report© — 02/25/02


1. Duke ... The Blue Devils responded to their 87-73 loss at Maryland on Feb. 17 by beating Wake Forest 90-61 on Thursday and handing St. John’s its worst loss ever, 97-55, on Sunday. The worst previous loss for St. John’s, which started playing basketball in 1907, was 81-40 to Kentucky in 1951. Duke (25-2, 12-2 ACC) had a 35-1 run at the end of the first half in their 21st consecutive non-conference win. Jason Williams had 26 points. He needs one assist to join Phil Ford of North Carolina and Dennis Scott of Georgia Tech as ACC players who have 1,800 points and 600 assists in their caeer. The Blue Devils visit Virginia for a 9 p.m. game on Thursday and host UNC at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday.

2. Wake Forest ... Poor Josh Howard. He called a timeout when the Deacons didn’t have any left with 1.3 seconds left and the score tied at 89 in a game at Maryland on Sunday. Juan Dixon hit one of two technical free throws as the Terps took a 90-89 win. “The worst thing is I let down my team,” said a disconsolate Howard, who had 18 points and 15 rebounds in his first significant action in the last five games due to a sprained ankle. Craig Dawson had 27 points and Darius Songaila added 20 for the Deacons, who led by 12 points early in the second half. Wake tries to regroup for a 7:30 p.m. game on Wednesday at Georgia Tech. The Deacons host N.C. State at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

3. N.C. State ... The Wolfpack nailed down a 20-win season and assured a winning record in the ACC by pulling away from rival North Carolina 98-76 on Sunday. Anthony Grundy had 28 points in his final home game at the Entertainment and Sports Arena for NCSU (20-8, 9-6 ACC). The final home game for NCSU’s seniors was also the first home win for Wolfpack coach Herb Sendek over the Tar Heels. Grundy is State’s only double-figure scorer, averaging 17.0 points. He also leads the Pack in rebounds (5.4) and assists (3.5). State is idle until playing at Wake at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

4. Charlotte ... The 49ers won for the tenth time in their last 13 games when they obliterated Tulane 96-54 on Saturday as Jobey Thomas scored 23 points and Cam Stephens collected 15 rebounds. Charlotte (17-9, 11-4 C-USA) regrouped nicely from a 66-52 loss at Marquette in which they shot 39.2 percent from the field and 45.5 percent (5 for 11) at the line. That point total equaled their season low in a 73-52 loss at Florida on Dec. 15. The Niners have a week to tune up for their regular-season finale at noon on Saturday at Louisville.

5. South Carolina ... It was an up and down week for the Gamecocks as they won 66-53 at home over LSU on Wednesday before falling 50-46 at Auburn on Saturday. No USC player managed to score in double figures in the team’s season-low point output. Adam Harrington, a transfer from N.C. State, led the Tigers with 13 points as Auburn won for the 11th time in its last 13 games with South Carolina. Auburn outrebounded USC by a whopping 49-25 margin. The Gamecocks will have to do better board work at Georgia at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday and at home against Mississippi State at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.

6. UNC Wilmington ... Junior guard Brett Blizzard scored 18 points in UNCW’s 73-62 win over Virginia Commonwealth at Trask Coliseum in the Port City on Saturday as the Seahawks (19-9, 14-4 Colonial Athletic Association), the preseason league favorites, clinched the CAA regular-season title despite a 68-65 loss at Drexel on Monday. The Seahawks have top seeding and a first-round bye for the league tournament Friday through Monday in Richmond, Va.

7. College of Charleston ... The Cougars were tied with Georgia Southern and Chattanooga for first place in the South Division of the Southern Conference. All had 9-7 league records after C of C lost 70-54 at Georgia Southern on Saturday. It was the second straight loss for the Cougars, who were knocked off at home, 73-70, by Davidson on Tuesday. Jeff Bolton continues to lead the team in scoring with a 17.9 average. The Southern Conference Tournament at North Charleston, S.C. is Thursday through Sunday. The Cougars (16-11, 9-7) go in as their division’s third-seeded team and will meet Appalachian at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday.

8. UNC Greensboro ... The Spartans closed out the regular season by beating Furman 70-67 as Jay Joseph and Courtney Eldridge each scored 21 points. UNCG (18-9, 11-5) goes into the conference tournament with a three-game winning streak and a share of the regular-season title in the Southern Conference North Division with Davidson and East Tennessee State. James Maye (13.9), David Schuck (13.5) and Eldridge (13.0) spearhead a balanced Spartans attack. Schuck averages 6.7 rebounds while Maye averages 6.0. Eldridge has 6.2 assists per game. The Spartans play Wofford at 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

9. Davidson ... The Wildcats stumbled down the stretch with losses to Appalachian State and VMI in their last three games but they still nabbed the top seeding from the North Division in the Southern Conference Tournament. Davidson (18-9, 11-5) came from 18 points down to get within two points before falling 81-77 at Lexington, Va. despite 20 points from Chris Pearson. In their last four games, the Wildcats have beaten Georgia Southern and College of Charleston, who tied for first in the South Division but they’ve lost to the Apps and Keydets, who are tied for last in the North. Davidson plays Thursday's winner between The Citadel and VMI at noon on Friday.

10. Clemson ... Edward Scott had a career-high 36 points on 12 of 15 shooting from the field, including 5 of 6 on three-pointers as the Tigers subdued Florida State 87-78 on Saturday. The outcome means Clemson (13-15, 4-11 ACC) could finish as high as sixth in the league standings. They would need some help as well as their first win ever in Chapel Hill. Tigers coach Larry Shyatt has one season remaining on his contract. Renovations have started on Littlejohn Coliseum and Clemson may have to play elsewhere if the work is not finished by next season. The Tigers visit UNC at 9 p.m. on Wednesday.


11. The Citadel
12. North Carolina
13. Gardner-Webb
14. Furman

15. East Carolina ... A 63-46 loss at East Carolina on Saturday may have been just the start of problems for Houston. Coach Ray McCallum announced on Sunday that Kevin Gaines, Dominic Smith, Louis Truscott and Marcus Oliver have been suspended. Gaines, who has personal issues to resolve, according to McCallum, will not return this season. Shooting was another problem for the Cougars on Saturday night in Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum as the Pirates limited Houston to 29.6 percent field goal accuracy — the lowest by a league opponent of the Pirates this season. Houston lost for the second time this season to a Carolinas team, having been edged 67-66 at home by N.C. State on Dec. 23 when the Wolfpack’s Marcus Melvin hit a three at the buzzer. The Cougars were seemingly on a hot streak with three straight wins, including a 76-73 upset of National Division leader Memphis. ECU was the hot team in the second half on Saturday night, burying 12 of 23 field goal attempts for 52.2 percent to pull away from a scant 27-24 lead at the half. ECU senior Kenyatta Brown made six three-pointers, a career high, and led all scorers with 21 points. Travis Holcomb-Faye added 17 points on 6 of 9 shooting from the field. Pirates freshman Moussa Badiane blocked three shots and is now tied for fourth on the C-USA single-season blocked shots list with 77. The win was ECU’s 299th in Minges Coliseum as the Pirates held an opponent to less than 50 points for the first time since Mount St. Mary’s scored 49 on Jan. 4, 2000. Sophomore Erroyl Bing had nine rebounds to lead the Pirates on the boards for the 22nd time in 27 games. Bing is the scoring leader for the Pirates with a 13.1 average. Sophomore center Gabriel Mikulas averages 12.9 points and Brown is scoring at an 11.4 rate. ECU (11-16, 4-10 C-USA) is 9-2 this season when leading at the half and 9-5 at home. Its other two wins were in a season-opening tournament at the ESA in Raleigh over Rutgers and Northwestern.

16. Wofford
17. Appalachian State
18. Winthrop
19. Western Carolina
20. UNC Asheville
21. South Carolina State
22. N.C. A&T
23. Charleston Southern
24. Elon
25. Campbell
26. Coastal Carolina
27. High Point

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02/23/2007 12:58:06 AM

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