GREENVILLE, N.C. - Kentrell Barkley came off the bench to score a game high 19 points, Caleb White had 17 and ECU got great play from the inside tandem of Andre Washington who scored 15 to go along with a season high 11 points and 8 rebounds from Michel Nzege to lift the Pirates to a 78-64 victory over Temple Wednesday night in Minges Coliseum.
Barkley spent the first six minutes on the bench for disciplinary reasons before coming in and responding well, hitting 6 of 15 from the floor including 3 of 6 from long range to go along with 4 of 4 from the stripe in the victory.
"When we went in at halftime we wanted to stay focused and keep our intensity on defense,” Barkley told PirateIllustrated.com, “Not give up one possession on defense. Play hard, give it our all and everybody bought into it and we came out with the win. I think that was like the first time we pushed it and stepped on the opponents throat in the second half, so kudos to the whole team on that."
“K.B. texted me earlier today and said he sees the dog in me and to keep playing like a dog. It’s been a frustrating season for me so I had to come out and put that aggression on somebody and lay the smack down,” said Nzege, "It feels good to get the win against a team that plays hard like that."
Temple(14-12/5-8 AAC) got 15 points from Mark Williams, 14 from Quinton Rose and 12 from Daniel Dingle but it wasn’t enough to overcome 36 percent shooting including 8 of 24 from the three-point line.
For ECU(11-14/3-9 AAC), it was a big win at a much needed time and interim Pirate head coach Michael Perry pointed to the play of his post players along with avoiding any real offensive dry spells that allowed the Pirates to control the contest.
"That’s aided by getting to the free throw line and getting some baskets in transition. We wanted to get the ball in transition and really push it and particularly with Sheppard,” Perry told PI, "He’s not the biggest point guard in the league, but he is one of the fastest, so we challenged him to use his speed to be a factor both offensively and defensively."
This was perhaps the best game for the Pirate big men all season as a group.
“This was a good game for Nzege. His energy and his effort, obviously that’s kind of what he’s hung his hat on the past two or three years of his career. We love to see it. He was able to get deep paint touches," Perry said, "That was the one thing that we asked him to try to do. Catch the ball deeper in the paint so he doesn’t have to put it on the floor or try to reposition himself. Do his work early so he could make a quick move. He was able to do that. He and the other guys in the paint did a good job tonight out rebounding them. We figured we’d have a chance against them if we could set up deep in the paint and use our size to be able to create some second chance opportunities for us.”
Overall Perry was elated with the outcome and the effort his team put forth and he put a big emphasis on it after the game.
“I’m really excited for our kids. They put a lot of hard work in and they had a tough loss at South Florida. Obviously when you have a tough loss, you can’t wait to get back on the floor and have an opportunity to redeem yourself and put forth the effort that you know that you’re capable of playing with,” Perry said.
“I think they were more disappointed with the last game not because they didn’t make shots, but because they didn’t put forth the effort that we typically had been playing with. So that kind of burns at you for a couple of days so as a result practices were very intense. They were going after each other and couldn’t wait to play an opponent other than themselves and it was great for them to get out there and compete. Good things happen when you play with that level of intensity and it was good to see."
After mysteriously sitting out for the first seven minutes of the contest, ECU’s leading scorer Kentrell Barkley quickly tossed in a pair of three-pointers. ECU added two Elijah Hughes treys and a Michel Nzege spin move in the paint as ECU led 28-25 with 7:33 to go in the first half.
Mark Williams heated up for Temple with a pair of baskets in his ten first half points to go along with a Damien Dingle dunk to help the Owls take a four-point 33-29 lead at the 4:30 mark. The Temple lead grew to as much as five when Damion Moore scored over Andre Washington.
Then Pirate guard B.J. Tyson returned to get his first basket since coming off a knee injury and Andre Washington who led ECU with nine first half points added a pair of free throws to help the Pirates close to within one at 38-37 at intermission.
The Pirates connected on 6 of 13 from three-point land in the first twenty minutes of the game for 46.2 percent while Temple went 4 of 9 and hit 8 of 10 from the charity stripe.
Andre Washington scored on three separate occasions in the first nine minutes of the second half before a Caleb White fast break basket gave ECU a five-point 54-49 lead. Two minutes later the Pirates built the lead to eleven on a Kentrell Barkley transition layup.
There was little let up from Michel Nzege who scored eight points in a six minute stretch to expand the ECU margin to 71-54 with four minutes to play. White and Barkley then kept the pedal to the metal at the end to put the exclamation mark on the win.
The Pirates hit 9 of their 23 three-point attempts and 47.5 percent overall from the floor in the win.