College Sports in the Carolinas
Don't miss Al Myatt's
profile of ECU Chancellor Steven Ballard in the 2004
from the East
January 6, 2005
By Al Myatt
Young Bucs yet to master
closing the deal
WHERE TO BUY...
PAT DYE: Short on Tenure, Long on Impact
INSIDE PIRATE FOOTBALL
Tracking the Classes
NCHSAA & ECU: Smooth Sailing Again
HIGH HOPES FOR HOOPS
New Leader Takes Charge
SCOTT COWEN: Busting Down the Door
KEITH LECLAIR on ECU's Field of Dreams
BETH GRANT: Actress Still a Pirate
East Carolina appeared to be on the verge of a blowout of South Florida
early in the second half of its Conference USA basketball opener on
Wednesday night in Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum.
But the Bulls consumed the cushion the Pirates spent most of the first half
building and left town with a 72-71 win.
"We stopped playing team ball," said Pirates sophomore guard Mike Cook, who
led ECU with 18 points. "We relaxed and got comfortable and we stopped
moving the ball. We forgot what got us that 10-point lead."
Cook was referring to the Pirates' 42-32 lead at the half.
ECU coach Bill Herrion told his team at intermission that the Pirates needed
to work to build the lead in the first five minutes of the second half. The
margin went to 47-34 as Cook opened the second half scoring for the Pirates
with an 18 footer and sophomore Japhet McNeil dropped a three.
But with a chance to bury the Bulls, McNeil missed a layup off a steal in
ECU's press that clanged clumsily off the bottom of the rim. South Florida
made a quick transition and got a 3-pointer from the left wing by James
Holmes to draw USF within 47-37 with 18:25 to go.
Herrion called the sequence crucial in his postgame summary.
"We had a chance to go up 15 and all of a sudden it's back down to a
10-point lead," said the ECU coach. "That was a huge turnaround. We make
that shot and then maybe we get it to 17 and then it's a different game."
The Pirates wished the outcome had been different but they were unable to
turn back the Bulls comeback.
"It's always tough when you have a heartbreaker," said freshman Tom
Hammonds, who had 12 of his 14 points in the first half. "We had it in our
hands. It's been like that in two or three games we've had this year."
It also was an agonizing setback for Herrion from several standpoints. He
said the Pirates heavily recruited South Florida senior forward Terrence
Leather, who led the Bulls with 18 points and 16 rebounds.
Then there was the frustration of missing close shots repeatedly, only one
of which might have meant the difference in a 1-point game. ECU got the ball
inside to Moussa Badiane and Corey Rouse as designed, particularly in the
second half, only to see the inside duo combine to go 6-for-23 from the
"Until I look at the tape I won't know for sure but watching the game I
think we got the ball to point-blank range seven or eight times and we
didn't convert," Herrion said.
But mostly it was a missed opportunity for a 1-0 start in C-USA that left
the residue of regret on ECU's evening.
The Pirates could have used some momentum with a game at Charlotte looming
on Saturday and then Cincinnati at home on Wednesday.
"This is an extremely unforgiving league," Herrion said. "There's zero
margin for error. You've got to win home games. That's what really hurts."
South Florida (8-4) went 19 of 27 from the free throw line in the second
half despite playing from behind most of the way while the Pirates were 6 of
10 during that span.
"They got to the line a lot and that's an issue at home," Herrion said.
ECU (5-8) couldn't hold off the senior-laden Bulls with the its own youthful
collection of players. Herrion played five freshmen. But that's not an
acceptable cop out for the Pirates.
"We can't play the 'We're young game,' " Herrion said. "It is what it is."
Lone ECU senior Badiane had great totals, 16 points and 16 rebounds, but
went 6 of 19 from the field.
It was the second 1-point loss at home for ECU this season. Old Dominion
edged the Pirates 51-50 on Dec. 12. There was also a 77-72 overtime loss at
Western Carolina and a 57-53 cliffhanger that went South Carolina's way on
Dec. 20 in Mobile, Ala.
"What we're having trouble doing is closing out games," Herrion said.
The ECU coach said he told his team at the half the team that wanted the
game the most would win.
"I think South Florida wanted it a little more," Herrion concluded.
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02/23/2007 12:33:58 AM