ECU Stretches Blue Hose to Limit in a 76-56 Win in Minges Coliseum
Before the game, it was announced that ECU had dismissed 6-8 senior forward Clarence Williams from the team. So the Pirates inserted freshman guard Jeremy Sheppard who scored eleven points to go along with six assists in his first start in ECU’s 76-56 win over Presbyterian Thursday night in Minges Coliseum.
Sheppard and four other Pirates found their way into double-figures led by B.J. Tyson and Kentrell Barkley who each tossed in twelve points. Barkley also had ten rebounds - all on the defensive glass. Caleb White scored eleven and freshman guard Raquan Wilkins had probably his best outing yet adding ten to go along with nine points from fellow freshman Elijah Hughes in ECU’s most fluid offensive performance of the still young season.
It was Sheppard’s first start in a Pirate uniform and everyone could sense that it was just a matter of time before the one natural point guard on the team found his way into a starting lineup.
“My teammates keep telling me to just be myself and run the show and make sure that everything runs smooth,” said Sheppard, “It’s my job to make sure everything is running pretty good and make sure that all the sets are running smoothly. My shot was a little off today, so I had to create a little more and kick it out to open players.”
For Barkley, it was a night to get back more into the flow of the offense and find his way out of what has been a bit of a mini-slump over the past week or two.
“I’ve been trying to get out of the little drought that I was in. Basically getting my teammates involved. Rip driving and rebounding like I used to,” Barkley said, “This game was just like to add on to the record and build on top of this win. We did some great things tonight as far as being ourselves and putting the ball in. The defense was kind of iffy tonight, but we can work on that. We played together, we communicated and we did a lot of good things today."
ECU went 22 for 27 from the charity stripe which didn’t hurt matters either. They scored 30 points in the paint and got 26 points from their bench in the Pirates’ eighth victory of the year against five losses.
The Blue Hose got 16 points from Darius Moore who came in averaging just 5.8 points per game. Moore went 4 for 5 from the arc while Jo’Vontae Millner contributed 13 and Reggie Dillard chipped in with 10 as Presbyterian fell to 4-7 on the year.
“The ball was moving fast and it was nice to see. We shared it. As a coach that was just marvelous to see,” ECU head coach Jeff Lebo said after the game, “We got off to a great start and we just kind of let them back into the game a little bit. Defensive, I didn’t think our sense of urgency and our close outs to take away rhythm threes was very good and that was one of our emphasis. Give them (Presbyterian) credit they made some shots. When we’re small, we’re not the same defensively as it is with the “bigs” out there on the floor.”
We made them miss early. Sheppard, I thought, his ability to slither and make the right play where the ball is supposed to go was good. When he’s on the floor makes other guys on the court better."
After Presbyterian got off to an early 3-0 start on a Darius Moore three-pointer, ECU then zipped their way up and down the court on a 17-2 run in the first nine minutes of the contest.
Three straight Blue Hose baskets including a three-pointer from Darius Moore allowed Presbyterian to claw their way back within three at 17-14. Then two buckets from Jo’vontae Milner along with baskets from Jaron Withers and Reggie Dillard kept the Blue Hose within three points with just under four minutes in the period.
B.J. Tyson’s baseline jumper, a nifty bucket from Elijah Hughes off a feed from Jeremy Sheppard along with a pair of Hughes free throws with 2.1 seconds to play gave East Carolina a 33-25 halftime lead.
The Pirates were led by ten points from Caleb White and Darius Moore tossed in eight for Presbyterian. Both teams connected on 38.5 percent from the floor and had 18 rebounds. ECU got to the stripe twelve times and hit nine of them in the first twenty minutes.
ECU reeled off thirteen straight points in the second half, capped off by a Sheppard to Tyson lob for a two-handed dunk that ballooned the Pirate lead to fifteen at 46-31. The Pirates maintained that lead on Tyson’s second dunk before a Sheppard drive made it 52-35 at the twelve minute mark.
Sheppard remained hot with another bucket and two Elijah Hughes baskets ballooned the Pirate lead to 61-38 at the nine minute mark. Then Raquan Wilkins scored four times as ECU maintained a 73-50 lead as the Pirates coasted in the rest of the way.
ECU hit 43.6 percent for the game despite going just 6 of 24 from the arc. The Pirates made up for some of that by hitting 81 percent of their 27 free throws while holding Presbyterian to just 38.6 percent from the floor. The Blue Hose only got to the stripe a total of six times where they connected on just half.