The road is long, as the song says, with many a winding
turn. The East Carolina men’s basketball team knows the meaning behind that
After an 83-62 loss at Charlotte’s Halton Arena on Saturday
night, the Pirates have played nine road games in Conference USA and are
still looking for their first win.
Charlotte, which doesn’t have a football team, took a two
touchdown lead on ECU (14-0) and won by three TDs (21 points).
The time looked right on Saturday night for an ECU
breakthrough outside the supportive confines of Williams Arena at Minges
Coliseum. The 49ers had dropped four straight and after an 80-59 loss at
home to Louisville, appeared extremely vulnerable.
A sizeable contingent of ECU fans were on hand and Charlotte
may have resented the intrusion. One 49ers player said ECU’s support helped
motivate the hosts.
The outset looked like a the start of a drag race. The 49ers
hit the gas on green. The Pirates were left groping for the gear shift.
“Coming out like that early, they didn’t know what to do,”
49ers point guard Curtis Nash told The Charlotte Observer. “Nobody expected
us to come out like that. We had told ourselves that all this stuff about
young, small — let’s throw all that out the window.”
ECU had no points and three turnovers to show for its first
Charlotte had also started fast against Louisville but this
time the 49ers would not be overtaken. Their first-half lead swelled to 26
points. ECU did make a run to get within 16 points in the second half but it
was much too little and much too tardy.
Proximity makes the Pirates and 49ers a natural rivalry
within the geographic expanse of C-USA but a rivalry indicates a higher
degree of competitiveness. Pirates coach Bill Herrion was left to ponder why
the energy and intensity that has characterized the Pirates in league
showdowns at home can’t be generated on the road.
Senior point guard Travis Holcomb-Faye, who returned after a
five-game absence due to an academic suspension imposed by Herrion, came off
the bench to score a team-high 15 points. He was 6 of 10 from the field and
was also second on the team with six rebounds but he also had a team-high
with six turnovers.
“Nobody said much when we got in the locker room,” said
Holcomb-Faye on Herrion’s coach’s show on Sunday on WITN-7. “It’s always
going to be touch on the road in the conference but coach is a little
disappointed. I don’t think we played as hard as we could play tonight. But
we can’t hang our heads too long. We’ve got to get back to Greenville and
get to practice tomorrow and get prepared for Louisville.”
The good news is that ECU faces the Cardinals (10-1, 2-0
C-USA), who have won nine straight, at home. Louisville’s only loss was
86-84 at Purdue on Nov. 30, the same day the Pirates were losing 24-7 in
football at Southern Miss. Reece Gaines leads coach Rick Pitino’s team with
a 17.9 scoring average.
“We’re going to bounce back,” said freshman guard Belton
Rivers. “We’re going to be all right. We just have to stay together and
everything’s going to be all right.”
There will likely be a sellout crowd for the Thursday
night’s 9 p.m. tipoff on ESPN 2. A year ago to the day, Jan. 16, 2002, the
Pirates stunned the Cards 87-77. That was at home, of course. It will be
difficult to do it again but the challenge for the Pirates in the bigger
picture will be a Sunday game at DePaul. And starting Jan. 29, ECU plays six
of its next nine league games on the