PirateIllustrated - ECU Snags 66-57 Win Over Charlotte in 49'er Tip-Off Classic
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ECU Snags 66-57 Win Over Charlotte in 49'er Tip-Off Classic

East Carolina had not won a game in Charlotte since 1983 until Friday when the Pirates overcame a slow start with a hot finish and a 66-57 win in the first game of the 49er Tip-Off Classic in Charlotte.

Jayden Gardner got things rolling with twelve second half points to lead ECU(1-0) in scoring with 18 points. Tristen Newton tossed in 15 points as the Pirates made 49 percent of their shots overall from the field. Bitumba Baruti added eight points and ECU’s only two three-point jumpers in 15 team attempts. The Pirates also made eight of their ten free throws.

Jordan Shepherd scored 15 points along with 14 points from Jhery Matos and ten from Jahmir Young for a Charlotte team that ECU held defensively to just 37.7 percent shooting.

“If we could have played a little bit smarter we could have won by an even bigger margin, but there were a lot of things to learn from and a lot of good things,” said Joe Dooley afterward, “We’ll take this and go back to the hotel and prepare for Belmont-Abbey tomorrow.”

It makes for a different experience to play in an arena with no fans due to the Covid19 crisis and Dooley talked about what that was like for his ball club.

“Obviously you have to bring your own energy. I think our guys were into it big time. I thought they were great and the bench was terrific and they were active. It’s a different environment that you realize how quiet things are. The guys did a real good job of adjusting, playing on the road and had a really good spirit.”

A 19-4 run helped the Pirates overcome an early 20-10 deficit and ECU found themselves up 29-24 with five minutes to go in the first half.

“Ludgy (Dubaut) and Charles (Coleman) both picked up fouls quickly and then when they took Supica out we were able to play small. I thought Ludgy gave us some really good minutes. When he was in there he had a presence,” Dooley said, “When they had Supica in the game, Ludgy did some really good things around the rim and gave us six points. He’s a really good active defender and he talks (on defense).

“When we played small, Brandon (Suggs) gave us some good minutes early and J.J. (Miles) even though he didn’t score a lot, he did a really good job of guarding and he got us organized. He had five assists and no turnovers. He was 0 for 2 but he kind of controlled it and he was an anchor for us defensively.”

Dooley had a number in mind in terms of the scoreboard that would give the Pirates their best chance of winning.

“I told our guys in the locker room before the game and I was talking to the staff - I said the first team to 60 is going to win this game. We talked about it in the huddle, I said guys they’ve got 52 with 2:27 to go, they can’t catch our guys and they ain’t getting sixty. We felt pretty good about that. Holding them to 40 percent on the road was good defensively. We gave up a lot of easy points early, but after we adjusted to the speed of the game, I thought our guys did a nice job.”

Tristin Newton’s fall away jumper as time expired in the first period had East Carolina tied with Charlotte at 32-32. Newton led all scorers with 13 in the first twenty minutes to go along with six points from Jayden Gardner. Newton would only score two points in the second half.

The Pirates made 53.6 percent of their first half shot attempts on 15 of 28 shooting despite 0-7 shooting from the arc. Shepherd’s 11 points on 5-6 first half shooting led Charlotte(0-1) in scoring. Jhery Matos and Milos Supica added seven points each in the first twenty minutes of play.

ECU opened up as much as a seven point 54-47 lead midway into the second half on a Bitumba Baruti drive. Then Jayden Gardner heated up late with three baskets in the paint and a pair of free throws down the stretch that had the Pirates up 62-54 with 1:25 to go.

Shepherd’s first trey of the game from the right corner briefly trimmed the ECU lead to five with just over 34 seconds left. Then two Pig Jackson free throws and two more from Gardner socked the game away late and the Pirates held on for the victory.