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View from the East
Friday, February 20, 2004

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Fans' faith sustains Pirates

©2004 Bonesville.net

You certainly have to credit the home fan support for East Carolina men’s basketball. The Pirates drew 4,632 for a midweek game on Wednesday night to see an ECU team that had not won at home in the 2004 calendar year.

“What is so special about East Carolina is the passion that the fans have for our teams,” said ECU basketball coach Bill Herrion.

Wednesday night’s turnout certainly indicates that ECU’s fanbase can’t be described as the fair weather variety when you consider that the Pirates averaged a lesser number, 4,537 in their last winning season. That was 1996-97 when the Pirates went 17-10.

ECU, at 10-12 overall and 2-10 in Conference USA, is battling to make this another winning campaign.

CONFERENCE USA STANDINGS & SCHEDULE

               Conference All Games
Team             W  L  PCT   W  L  PCT
Memphis          9  2 .818  18  4 .818
UAB              9  2 .818  16  6 .727
Cincinnati       8  3 .727  17  5 .773
Charlotte        8  3 .727  16  6 .727
DePaul           8  3 .727  15  7 .682
Louisville       7  4 .636  17  5 .773
Texas Christian  6  5 .545  10 12 .455
Saint Louis      5  5 .500  12  9 .571
Southern Miss    5  6 .455  12 10 .545
Marquette        4  6 .400  13  8 .619
Tulane           3  8 .273  10 12 .455
East Carolina    2 10 .167  10 12 .455
Houston          2 10 .167   8 15 .348
South Florida    1 10 .091   7 15 .318

Thursday's Games:
  No games scheduled.
Friday's Games:
  No games scheduled.
Saturday's Games:
  Charlotte at Southern Miss
  Louisville at Cincinnati
  Saint Louis at DePaul
  South Florida at Houston
  Texas Christian at East Carolina
  Tulane at Marquette
  UAB at Memphis

“I want to thank the fans for hanging in there with us,” said senior forward Erroyl Bing after ECU topped Tulane 76-66 on Wednesday night in Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum in a crucial game for the Pirates’ aspirations of making the Conference USA Tournament field. “We’ve been knocking on the door. We finally came through and finished one.”

The top 12 teams in the league among its 14 basketball-playing members make the C-USA Tournament on March 10-13 in Cincinnati. [View standings in a new window...]

“We knew it was a must-win situation,” said Herrion, who has kept the Pirates focused on a breakthrough despite a series of disappointingly-close losses.

In a 5-game home losing streak preceding the triumph over the Green Wave, ECU’s average margin of defeat was six points.

“We told the kids prior to the game that it was a 5-game season,” Herrion said. “To win five in a row, you have to win the first one.”

And that’s what the Pirates did as senior Derrick Wiley led the scoring with 22 points. Sophomore Belton Rivers stepped up with some crucial offense down the stretch and totaled 16 points. Promising freshman Mike Cook had 14 in the win and Bing added 12 points and 11 rebounds. Junior Moussa Badiane had nine points and six blocked shots. They don’t keep stats for how many shots Badiane alters or affects.

“I am really happy for the kids,” Herrion said. “Even though we’ve been losing a lot of very tough games lately against a lot of real quality opponents, this is the best basketball my team has played in the five years I have been here.”

Next up is Texas Christian, which is coming off a huge home win of its own. ECU hosts the Horned Frogs at 7 p.m. on Saturday night. TCU had a 71-46 win over No. 10 Louisville on Tuesday night, one of those outcomes that makes you do a double take to make sure you’re reading it correctly on the bottom of the ESPN screen.

Pitching looks promising

It also will be a big weekend at Harrington Field for the baseball Pirates as they host Delaware at 3 p.m. on Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.

Pitching was the unknown factor for the Pirates at the outset of the season but so far the staff hasn’t presented cause to worry for ECU pitching coach Tommy Eason. In a 4-0 start, ECU has a team earned run average of 1.00 with 38 strikeouts in 36 innings. The Pirates have allowed just 22 hits and 10 walks.

“So far so good,” Eason said. “It’s still early. We’re still trying to fill roles. Our offense has given us enough leeway that it’s really been a non-pressure situation for our pitchers. Time will tell when we’re put in pressure situations as far as how our guys will respond.”

The Pirates are still evaluating new pitchers and veteran pitchers in new roles.

“We’re still trying to find a closer,” Eason said. “And there’s a question who will be our best three starters. Guys are throwing strikes and that makes our job as coaches tough as far as evaluating.”

Delaware has ECU’s attention.

“They’re a scrappy team,” Eason said. “It will be a great challenge. Then the next weekend we’ve got Clemson and Georgia Southern coming in.”

The Pirates will play a doubleheader on Friday, Feb. 27 against the visiting teams and single games on Saturday and Sunday.

“That will get into our depth a little bit,” Eason said. “Our young guys as well as the older guys have to learn to pitch in pressure situations.”

Carter Harrell, who has pitched on the collegiate level at North Carolina and Louisburg, is 2-0 at ECU with a win in a start and another win out of the bullpen. Former reliever Greg Bunn struck out eight in five innings in his only start.

ECU losing valuable insider

Craig Wells has been one of those vital behind-the-scenes guys in ECU athletics, serving as director of media relations for the Pirates since prior to the 2001 football season. His job has essentially been to facilitate members of the media who cover ECU sports.

ECU has benefited greatly from Wells’ vast experience in Internet communications as he and staff provide not only facts and figures for those interested in ECU athletics but often managing to present them in an entertaining manner. Wells has figuratively taking ecusports.com into the 21st century with chats with coaches, links to live coverage of Pirates games and imaginative interactive polls relating to aspects of ECU athletics.

The downside to Wells’ position is long hours and too many working weekends. That’s the main reason he’s leaving ECU, effective March 12.

Wells will take a position in Santa Fe, New Mexico, as a state government publications manager. He knows he’s trading depth charts and injury reports for annual reports and legal reviews.

“It was a tough thing to do but I was ready for a change of pace,” Wells said. “It’s been a good job here, an enjoyable and rewarding experience. I’ve worked with a lot of good people.”

Wells and wife Sami have vacationed in the area they will be moving to. A more structured schedule and snow skiing a short distance away are big incentives.

“It’s an historical area with a lot of hiking available, too,” Wells said. “We had thought about living out there when we had visited that area. An opportunity came up and we couldn’t pass it up.”

Jody Jones, who is the primary men’s basketball contact in sports media relations, has handled the department on an interim basis before. The hiring of Wells’ replacement will likely be left up to the person who gets the athletic director’s position.

“Craig has done an outstanding job for our athletics programs for the last 2 1/2 years,” said Nick Floyd, interim director of athletics for ECU. “We hate to see him leave, however we understand his decision to make a change at this point in his life. We wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors.”

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02/23/2007 12:45:05 AM
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