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Don't miss Al Myatt's profile of ECU Chancellor Steven Ballard in the 2004 Bonesville Magazine.

View from the East
Thursday, December 30, 2004

By Al Myatt

Reeling Pirates groping for solutions


     Postgame Audio: Bill Herrion & Mike Cook
     • Associated Press Game Story
     • Al Myatt Game Analysis
     • Box Score
     • Schedule, Scores, Attendance

Bonesville Magazine

• PAT DYE: Short on Tenure, Long on Impact

• Recruit Profiles
• Rookie Books
• Tracking the Classes
• Florida Pipeline
• NCHSAA & ECU: Smooth Sailing Again


• STEVE BALLARD: New Leader Takes Charge

• SCOTT COWEN: Busting Down the Door

• KEITH LECLAIR on ECU's Field of Dreams

• BETH GRANT: Actress Still a Pirate


CLEMSON — Forget that Clemson University is located in Pickens County in the state of South Carolina. Those jurisdictions didn't apply to East Carolina's basketball team Wednesday night.

The Pirates labored for 40 minutes before a regional television audience under the simple principle of Murphy's Law — that being that anything that can go wrong will go wrong.

ECU started with its two leading scorers on the bench... against a Tigers team anxious to atone for a poor showing in Hawaii... with an officiating crew led by ACC veteran Larry Rose that remarkably didn't call on a foul on the Tigers despite their physical style for the first 10 minutes and 58 seconds.

"I think their message to us right off the bat was 'We're going to physically annihilate you,' " said Pirates coach Bill Herrion after a 74-40 road loss dropped ECU to 4-7.

Herrion sent junior college transfer Mike Castro, first-year starter Corey Rouse, sophomore point guard Japhet McNeil and freshmen Jonathan Hart and Tom Hammonds out for the opening tip.

Hammonds started fast, scoring all nine of his points in the opening half and impressing courtside analyst Bobby Cremins, who coached Hammonds' dad, Tom, at Georgia Tech. The rest of ECU's starters were a "Ramblin' Wreck," combining to go 1-for-12 from the field in the opening 20 minutes.

Sophomore guard Mike Cook, who was averaging a team high 16.0 points, didn't start because transportation problems delayed his return to campus after the Christmas break and he missed two practices.

Cook still got 26 minutes and tallied a game high 18 points with a half dozen NBA scouts seated across the playing floor from the Pirates bench at Littlejohn Coliseum. Marty Blake, the veteran NBA director of scouting, had come to check out Moussa Badiane, ECU's senior center, who was scoring 12.8 points per game.

Herrion didn't start Badiane because he was hoping to shake the slender post player out of an 0-for-4 field goal shooting slump in the last game against South Carolina. But Badiane went 0-for-10 from the floor against the Tigers and Blake headed for the exit to beat a crowd of 5,300 to the door before Cook hit the Pirates' final field goal with 4:18 to go.

"That was a good move," Herrion said tongue in cheek of Badiane's benching. "That worked real well."

Herrion and Badiane's teammates are at a loss to explain Badiane's sudden inability to provide a much-needed offensive presence inside.

"I don't know," Herrion said. "I mean I really don't know."

Cook said Badiane was getting the ball in his customary scoring positions.

"I think it's something Moussa is going to have to work out for himself," Cook said.

While Badiane's shooting touch was as cold as the recent winter weather covering the campus back home, the rest of the Pirates weren't much better as ECU managed to go just 21.1 percent from the field. Clemson warmed up from its recent 1-2 trip to the 50th state to finish at 55.6 percent for the game.

"Sharrod Ford set the tone for them early," Cook said.

Ford worked in the paint for 10 of his 14 points in the first half.

Herrion conversed with Rose at the close of the half but said he'd seen the movie already.

"I coached at Drexel against Big East teams," Herrion said. "I've been a head coach for 14 years."

Although the issue seemed obvious when Clemson bolted to a 28-9 lead with under seven minutes left in the first half, the Tigers never let up.

"After the way we played against Georgetown (a 75-60 loss to end the Hawaii junket on Dec. 23) we needed to come out and shut somebody down and that's what we did," said second-year Tigers coach Oliver Purnell.

The Pirates were a tuneup for Clemson's ACC opener at Duke on Sunday at 8 p.m.

ECU has its own tuneup for next Wednesday's Conference USA opener at home against South Florida when the Pirates host St. Andrews at 7 p.m. on Monday.

"We've got to come out against St. Andrews and re-establish our intensity," Cook said.

Herrion expects freshman guard Marvin Kilgore to be reinstated for the new year after missing the last three games due to an academic issue.

"Not having Marvin certainly wasn't the difference tonight," Herrion said. "Right now it's not about one player. We've got to regroup and get ready to start play in Conference USA."

And teams in C-USA will certainly get an idea of what works against the Pirates if they watch the Clemson tape.

"We're not as strong physically as last year when we had Gabriel Mikulas and Erroyl Bing," Herrion said. "We're getting exposed a little bit physically."

Herrion: Performance begets job security

With chancellor Steve Ballard and athletic director Terry Holland making a change recently in the leadership of the football program, Herrion was asked if he was feeling any more pressure about his own job situation.

Herrion is under contract through 2008. He has not had a winning record in his previous five seasons at ECU, a span in which the Pirates made the leap from the mid-major Colonial Athletic Association to Conference USA, a hoops power — at least until major membership shifts next season.

"Anytime there's a change with a new chancellor and a new athletic director everybody knows they're getting evaluated differently," Herrion said. "I can't control that. I'm working at things I can control. I've got to coach these kids to get all I can out of them.

"We've got to get these kids back playing hard and winning basketball games. You do that and everything takes care of itself."


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02/23/2007 12:47:11 AM

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