East Carolina was a defensive rebound
away from nailing down a significant non-conference win at the end of
regulation play against George Washington on Tuesday night in Williams
Arena at Minges Coliseum.
The Pirates had taken a 73-71 lead with
19 seconds left as Jamar Abrams drained a three-pointer on Brock Young's
10th assist of the game. The Colonials called time with 13 seconds left.
Then the potential win slipped away
from ECU. With a chance to get to .500 (6-6) and take the positive
emotion of victory into the Christmas break, the Pirates failed to
screen out for crucial defensive rebounds. George Washington's Damian
Hollis was errant on a jumper from the right side but teammate Hermann
Opoku came away with the carom.
Opoku missed from close range but
Dwayne Smith of the Colonials got another rebound. Smith got a follow
shot on the rim as the buzzer went off and the ball teetered on the iron
before falling in to send the contest into overtime.
The Pirates came excruciatingly close.
Young's fifth free throw of the extra period provided the game's 16th
tie with 1:28 left. Hollis put the Colonials ahead at the line with 1:04
left and went 6-for-6 on his foul shots in the last 64 seconds to salt
the 84-80 win away for the
visitors from the Atlantic 10, who improved to 8-2.
Despite the disappointing circumstances
of the outcome, there was no pity party in the ECU locker room. If there
is such a thing as a feel good loss, this was it.
"We got more than our share of the
hustle points against a team that's extremely athletic, very deep and
really long," said Pirates coach Mack McCarthy. "I thought that was a
ECU's hoops boss provided an
interesting perspective in contradiction to the standard concept of the
thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. The Pirates were coming off a
74-69 win over Division II St. Andrews
on Saturday night that wasn't assured until the closing seconds.
"While we were really disappointed that
we didn't come away with the win and end up .500 at Christmas, we
probably feel a whole lot better after this game despite the loss than
we did after Saturday night's win," McCarthy said. "Now whether we can
take this and build on it, I don't know."
The players found positives, too.
"Our effort was there," said Young, who
had 20 points. "If we can keep the effort there, keep turnovers down,
block out and just control the ball — we'll be all right."
Chad Wynn had 17 points and seven
"It's the most complete game we've
played," Wynn said. "We've got to come back after Christmas break and
play like that the rest of the season."
Hobbs offers accolades
George Washington coach Karl Hobbs was
impressed by Young, ECU's 5-foot-11 junior point guard, who was second
in the NCAA in assists last season with 7.6 per game.
"We felt coming into the game we had to
find some way to control Mr. Young," Hobbs said. "He's a terrific,
terrific basketball player. I don't know if I've ever played against a
player in the first half of a basketball game that had (two) points and
totally controlled the tempo of the game.
"He controlled the total flow of the
game. He makes all those other guys terrific players. He's as good a
point guard as we've faced all year."
Young played all 45 minutes for the
Pirates. George Washington point guard Tony Taylor had 20 points, four
assists, four steals and six rebounds in 39 minutes.
"It was fun for me just watching the
two point guards," Hobbs said. " ... Every time (Young) had the
basketball, I was nervous. ... I think he thrives on being pressured. I
think he takes it on as a personal insult when you try to trap him. He's
just a magnificent player. We really felt that we could wear him down.
He proved that he's a great, conditioned athlete.
"I just enjoy his unselfishness. He
really understands what he means to this team and he makes all those
guys feel good. I mean he really does. After the game in the locker
room, our coaches weren't talking about our guys. We were talking about
Brock. He left a strong impression on us."
League play is the focus
The Pirates return to action on Tuesday
at Virginia Commonwealth. ECU will be at home against North Carolina
Central on Sunday at 3 p.m. and then Conference USA play starts on
Wednesday, Jan. 6, when the Pirates face a UAB team in Birmingham that
won its tenth straight game, 67-57, over No. 16 Butler on Tuesday night.
The performance against George
Washington made McCarthy optimistic that ECU can be equal to the
"If we play like we did tonight, as
hard as we played and as well as we played together, the wins and losses
will take care of themselves," said the Pirates coach. "We'll start to
win more than we lose. But again, that's going to be a challenge to play
through some adversity and continue to play through adversity and
tonight was the first time I thought we really did that.
"We've battled from behind but playing
possession by possession, got to get a stop, got to get a score — this
is by far the best that we have played."
The conference schedule will get ECU's
"We've preached all along that the wins
and losses in November and December are O.K., but what's really
important is January and February," McCarthy said. "I think our guys
have been pretty good about keeping their eye on the prize at the end of
the year — playing in league play, being ready for the conference
tournament and understand that it's a process for us to get better."
Home, road disparity
With many students home for the
holidays on Tuesday night, Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum didn't
provide the same degree of home court advantage for the Pirates as is
normally the case for a reputable opponent.
What difference does the homecourt
In Conference USA games dating back to
the 2001-02 season, the Pirates have played 34 teams a total of 68 games
home and away in the same season during the regular season. The Pirates
beat Central Florida 89-75 (plus 14 points) at home last season but lost
74-71 (minus 3 points) on the Knights' floor. That's a differential of
17 points in home performance compared to the road.
In 34 sets of games, home and away
against the same C-USA teams in the same season, the total differential
has been 312 points better at home.
ECU has been an average of 9.176 points
better at home than on the road against the league teams it has played
home and away in C-USA in the same season over eight seasons.