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Bailey's Take on Pirate Basketball

From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, January 8, 2002
By Brian Bailey
Sports Anchor of WNCT-TV 9

Huggins Validates Sour Reputation; Gabe is Back!


Conference USA Hoops a Hit at ECU

Too bad Bearcat coach Bob Huggins doesn't savor the 'Greenville Experience' as much as the rest of us.

It wasn’t a sellout, but it was a dynamite atmosphere for hoops on Saturday night. More importantly, when big-time hoops came to Williams Arena, the Pirates almost pulled the big-time upset.

Cincinnati arrived in town with the swagger of a nationally ranked team. I had always heard that Huggins lacked a bit in the personality department. That point was proven at the Friday walk through.

It was all Huggins could do to shake my hand when I introduced myself. He never cracked a smile. He was miserable.

The only positive thing he said about anything was that he thought that Bill Herrion was doing a good job at East Carolina. Everything else was lip service. Huggins didn’t want to do an interview, he didn’t want to be in Greenville, and, at least in appearance, he could have cared less about East Carolina.

On game night, Huggins was the Bearcats' sixth man. He was on the court as much as anyone else in the Cincinnati line-up. I mean he was actually, physically, on the floor when he shouldn’t have been.

Huggins barked and intimidated, trying to and succeeding in bullying a weak officiating crew from Conference USA.

But even Huggins had to realize that his team didn’t play the harder of the two teams on the floor on Saturday night.

Cincinnati has more talent then does East Carolina. But credit the Pirates with giving Bob Huggins something to think about in the future.

Mikulas Returns at Last

Gabriel Mikulas, the CAA Rookie of the Year last season, makes his 2001-2002 debut tonight when the Pirates visit UAB. Mikulas may not start against the Blazers, but he is expected to get plenty of playing time.

“We are still talking about what to do with Gabe,” said Pirate assistant coach Greg Herenda on my radio show on Monday night. “He may start, or he may come off the bench. We think he’ll be a bit rusty, but his legs will be fresh, and that could be a big factor.”

Mikulas is the type of player that makes everybody on the court a little better when he is in the line-up. Ironically, in his absence, all the other players have gotten a little better. They didn’t have a choice.

Gabe missed 13 games because of the NCAA’s red tape. But that’s in the past, and the future begins tonight for one of ECU's top players.

The Pirates worked out in Birmingham on Monday night at Bartow Arena. Herenda said the team had a long trip, but that energy was plentiful at last night’s workout.

How Tough is Winning on the Road?

You just can’t grab a victory on the road in college basketball, can you?

Or CAN you?

Just when the ACC looked to test that theory, the league’s top gun was shot down on Sunday in Tallahassee. Who would have believed that Duke’s Jason Williams would miss six free throws down the stretch of any basketball game?

Before that, Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia Tech also lost at home.

Over in Conference USA, UAB was dropping its opener at home to Louisville.

That means the Blazers will be that much more in need of a win against East Carolina in tonight’s game. UAB was picked third in the National Division of Conference USA, while the Pirates were picked dead last in the American Division.

ECU's level of play against Cincinnati, though, was not a last place effort, and it will take that kind of effort and then some to beat UAB down in Birmingham.

More on Mik

If you watch tonight's game on the tube, stand up and give Mikulas a standing ovation when he enters the game. Or, better yet, save that for Saturday's home game against Charlotte.

It has been a long 13-game stretch on the sidelines for the outstanding sophomore from Argentina. Pirate fans can’t wait to see Gabe back. Erroyl Bing also can’t wait to get some help inside.

Bing scored 17 points against a very good Cincinnati inside game on Saturday. Bing deserves all kind of credit, because this Pirate team wouldn’t be close to .500 without Coach Bill Herrion’s other outstanding sophomore.

The Pirates will be underdogs tonight, but that appears to be this team’s strength. And finally, this squad is at full strength with the return of Gabriel Mikulas.

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02/23/2007 01:22:19 AM

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