GREENVILLE — For a program that
hasn't had a winning season since 1996-97, the script looked
familiar. East Carolina had plenty of opportunities to lose to
Charlotte on Wednesday night.
The 49ers were hotter than a
burning building in jumping out to a 12-2 lead and the visitors
appeared to be in control when they were up 42-30 early in the
second half. When Gokhan Sirin, a 6-foot-8 Turkish import, hit a
3-pointer with 14 seconds left for a 61-59 Charlotte lead, the
handwriting on the wall must have looked familiar for
long-suffering Pirate basketball fans among the crowd of 3,904
in Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum.
But this one had a distinct
plot twist — a clutch play in the closing seconds that produced
a 62-61 ECU win over their former Conference USA rivals. The
refreshing outcome also provided a hint of the positive
possibilities that could lie ahead.
Post player Darrius Morrow was
the hero. He powered a shot up from the right low block on a
feed by Erin Straughn with 3.8 seconds left as 6-foot-11 Phil
Jones was called for a foul. Morrow said he didn't want to go to
overtime and put all his focus on the ensuing free throw which
provided the margin of victory. ECU double-teamed 49er guard
Jamar Briscoe after he took Charlotte's last inbounds pass. He
threw to Jones, who missed a lengthy three as time expired.
Morrow had 11 points, eight
rebounds and a smile. Too often, sullen faces and slumped
shoulders have been the standard postgame body language for ECU
The outcome avenged a 74-63
loss to the 49ers in the Charleston Classic. Shamari Spears, a
6-6 senior who led Charlotte's scoring with a 17.0 average, has
been suspended since that first meeting when he scored 15
Jontae Sherrod snapped the
Pirates out of their early funk and finished with a game-high 19
points. He made 5 of 9 from behind the arc.
ECU is 6-2 and despite the
tendency to typecast that indoor activity that takes place
between football and spring football, there are signs of hope
that hoops could continue to move forward. Point guard Brock
Young looked like his old self after struggling at the outset of
his senior season with a torn meniscus.
Young talked about the domino
process that eventually downed the 49ers.
"I started attacking in
transition because their guards were tired," said Young, who had
14 points, six assists, five rebounds and no turnovers. "When I
started attacking, it opened it up from the outside. Jontae
started hitting shots. When he started hitting shots, it opened
up the middle. I had opportunities to drive in and kick the
ball. We were just flowing as an offense."
The Pirates weren't doing too
badly on the defensive end either. They amped up their
man-to-man to chop into Charlotte's lead with a dominating 17-2
second half run. After hitting 46.2 percent of their field goal
attempts in the first half, the 49ers managed just 32.3 percent
in the second half. ECU was stepping out on screens, playing
physical inside and closing out on shooters as Charlotte was
forced into long and mostly-unsuccessful possessions.
ECU's offense improved from its
33.3 percent field goal shooting effort in the first half to
make 51.9 percent in the second half. Correspondingly, ECU
outscored the 49ers 37-26 in the second half.
Maybe it was just a coincidence
that ECU football coach Ruffin McNeill, flanked by Chancellor
Steve Ballard and athletic director Terry Holland, formally
accepted a bid to the Military Bowl in Washington, D.C. at
The Pirate fans chanted, "We've
got football," for the benefit of the green section of 49ers
fans behind the Charlotte bench. The 49ers don't have football
After ECU had rallied to close
the deficit in the overall series to 13-6, the Minges Maniacs
had an adaptation. "We've got basketball," was their closing
There seems to be a growing
sense around the overall athletic program of the potential value
of a winning hoops program. It's no secret that successful
basketball would enhance ECU's appeal to a conference with an
automatic qualifier in the Bowl Championship Series. Hiring Jeff
Lebo to coach basketball was a positive step and the commitment
to raise funds for a $15 million practice facility was another.
Over half of that amount has been pledged.
Lebo's first order of business
in his interview room remarks was to thank the fans for upping
the energy level in Williams Arena in the second half, allowing
the Pirate players to accentuate the home court advantage.
Lebo said the string of losing
seasons has become a factor to the extent that it hurts to talk
about it. But the coaches and players have talked about it.
And Wednesday night, they did
something about it. The program's confidence meter took a
perceptible upward turn as the 49ers were the ones who were left
to deal with a disappointing defeat. Many a happy team bus has
rolled away from Minges over the years. Too many.
ECU has had its moments at home
as wins over Louisville, Marquette and N.C. State attest but
more consistency and more competitiveness in Conference USA are
the goals. The Pirates are a work in progress and they were
scheduled to return to work shortly after experiencing the
exhilaration of edging Charlotte.
"It's nice for them to enjoy,"
Lebo said of his players' response to a close win over a program
which has a degree of tradition. "But the enjoyment will be
short. We've got practice at 7 in the morning."
62, CHARLOTTE 61
Date: Wednesday, Dec. 1,
Place: Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum, Greenville, NC
Records: ECU 6-2; UNCC 3-5.
SCORE BY PERIODS 1
35 26 - 61
25 37 - 62
UNC-CHARLOTTE 49ERS (3-5)
# PLAYER FG 3PT FT
R PTS MIN
21 An'Juan Wilderness.. f 2-5 0-2
3-5 4 7 31
35 Chris Braswell...... f 2-8 0-0
0-0 5 4 25
00 Javarris Barnett.... g 3-7 1-3
0-1 6 7 28
01 Derrio Green........ g 3-8 3-8
2-2 6 11 33
10 Jamar Briscoe....... g 3-13 1-5
0-0 3 7 32
03 Gokhan Sirin.......... 3-6 3-4
0-0 1 9 21
05 Phil Jones............ 5-8 0-1
4-5 10 14 28
20 Colby Lewis........... 1-2 0-1
0-0 0 2 2
TOTALS................... 22-57 8-24 9-13 38
PERCENT.................. 38.6 33.3 69.2
EAST CAROLINA PIRATES (6-2)
# PLAYER FG 3PT FT
R PTS MIN
01 Darrius Morrow...... f 4-12 0-0
3-4 8 11 33
21 Jamar Abrams........ f 3-6 2-5
0-0 3 8 18
10 Brock Young......... g 6-12 2-5
0-1 5 14 33
11 Corvonn Gaines...... g 3-6 0-2
0-0 2 6 31
23 Erin Straughn....... g 0-2 0-2
1-2 6 1 22
12 Robert Sampson........ 0-1 0-0
0-0 1 0 4
24 Jontae Sherrod........ 7-12 5-9
0-0 5 19 31
30 Wakefield Ellison..... 0-2 0-1
0-0 0 0 4
33 Chad Wynn............. 1-2 0-0
1-2 2 3 12
35 Darius Morales........ 0-2 0-0
0-0 1 0 12
TOTALS................... 24-57 9-24 5-9 36
PERCENT.................. 42.1 37.5 55.6
Officials: Duke Edsall,
Mark Schnur, Clyde Owens
Technical Fouls: None