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View from the East
Thursday, February 12, 2004

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

High praise from ex-Seahawk Calipari

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As long as East Carolina basketball coach Bill Herrion focuses on his team’s effort and execution and not the outcomes of games, he says he can keep his sanity.

The Pirates came close again on Wednesday night against another of Conference USA’s top teams, leading Memphis until midway through the second half before falling 79-73.

The Tigers had beaten ECU 73-49 in Memphis last season.

“They’ve got way better athletes,” Herrion said. “Last year we couldn’t function against them. I think the gap has closed but we’re not there yet.”

Narrowing the gap was what Herrion was reminding himself of after ECU’s tenth loss in its last 11 games. Five of those losses have been by six points or less. The Pirates’ only league win was a narrow 55-53 triumph at South Florida.

“If you want to rewind the tape from the last couple of press conferences we can do that and save time,” Herrion told reporters after the loss to the Tigers that was a first cousin to a 96-90 overtime loss at home to Charlotte on Saturday night.

“We’re putting ourselves in numerous positions to win games,” Herrion said. “To me that’s progress and if I don’t look at it like that, I’ll go whacky. We’re not getting the same kids Memphis is getting so we have to get so much more out of our kids. ... Our margin of error in this league is razor thin.”

The Pirates are trying to get into the Conference USA Tournament on March 10-13 in Cincinnati, but to do so they need to be among the top 12 teams among the 14 in the league standings. ECU, at 9-11 overall and 1-9 in league play, is currently 13th.

“Now we’ve got a 6-game season,” Herrion said. “I’ve told the kids we can win every game. We’ve got to get some wins down the stretch because we want to get to the C-USA Tournament.”

The Pirates play at UAB at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday night before returning home for three straight games with Tulane (Feb. 18, 7 p.m.), TCU (Feb. 21, 7 p.m.) and South Florida (Feb. 28, 1 p.m.). The Green Wave and Houston are each 2-7 in a tie for 11th in the league standings. South Florida is 0-9 and in 14th.

The Tulane game will obviously be important to establish the head-to-head tiebreaker if the Pirates and Green Wave should tie.

ECU senior forward Erroyl Bing said the Pirates can be a dangerous team if they can get to the league tournament.

“If we get to the Conference USA Tournament, some of these teams may be in trouble,” Bing said. “We played at Houston and they escaped. DePaul escaped us. Charlotte escaped and now, Memphis. I don’t see us losing to these teams again. It may sound a little brash, but we’re learning something new every game.”

The learning process for ECU, which has three freshmen playing prominently in the rotation, included going back to the drawing board — literally — after the Memphis game. Herrion wrote up two things for the team: “Shot selection and untimely bad fouls.”

The Tigers helped themselves by going 18 for 22 at the line in the second half. Some of those fouls were committed to stop the clock late in the game.

There were 4,862 fans there for a midweek game, which indicates good support. That’s not counting Memphis coach John Calipari, a former UNC Wilmington player at one point in his career, who sounded like a Pirate supporter after his team’s eighth straight win.

“They had a great game plan,” Calipari said. “They changed defenses. They played some zone. They played some box and one and they even went to some man, which surprised me. But that showed they weren’t afraid to match up with us.”

Calipari watched tape of the Charlotte-ECU game and came to much the same conclusion that 49ers coach Bobby Lutz did.

“East Carolina should have won,” Calipari said. “Billy (Herrion) is doing a great job of getting his team doing what it needs to do to win. ... We were fortunate to make plays at the end. (ECU) is so much better than last year. They just need a breakthrough win. We’re a pretty good team and they took it right at us.”

Memphis is better than pretty good. They won their eighth straight to go to 17-4 on the season and they share the league lead with Cincinnati at 8-2. Herrion said Memphis point guard Antonio Burks (25 points vs. ECU) would be his C-USA player of the year at this point and 6-8 Tigers freshman Sean Banks (13 points, 9 rebounds) would be his rookie of the year.

More football recruits boarding the ship

Maybe the various recruiting evaluators who have rated ECU’s 2004 signing class anywhere from fourth to 10th in Conference USA, should have waited. After all, the Pirates are still signing players.

Linebacker Quentin Cotton, rated No. 24 in the state by Rivals.com, signed this week, and ECU is expected to sign defensive end Wes Hofacker (6 feet 2, 235 pounds) of Allen (Texas) High to a grant.

Another, quarterback Josh Vogelbach of Bishop Verot High in Fort Myers, Fla., is planning to walk on with the Pirates after being recruited by new offensive coordinator Noah Brindise. If a grant opens up because a sufficient number of the present signees don’t qualify academically, Vogelbach (6-0, 195) could likely get a free ride. He passed for 2,154 yards and 19 touchdowns last season.

Chattanooga has reportedly signed quarterback Antonio Miller of Charlotte Olympic, who initially committed to ECU.

NFL Europe beckons Pirates

Two former ECU players have been allocated to rosters for NFL Europe teams. The Miami Dolphins are sending running back Leonard Henry to Frankfurt and the Cleveland Browns have placed receiver Richard Alston in Berlin.

Former Pirates lineman Devone Claybrooks used NFL Europe as a stepping stone to earn a Super Bowl ring a year ago with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Are You Ready for Some Baseball?

East Carolina’s baseball team was introduced during halftime of the Memphis basketball game. It was nice to see college athletes and coaches in shirts and ties.

The Pirates open their 2004 baseball season at home this weekend with UNC Asheville. Games are at 3 p.m. on Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday. Assistant athletics director Lee Workman said the new scoreboard in right center at Harrington Field was checked out last week and should be ready. It has a video screen among its bells and whistles.

Send an e-mail message to Al Myatt.

Click here to dig into Al Myatt's Bonesville archives.

02/23/2007 12:45:04 AM
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