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ECU Upsets (5)Houston 82-73 For Joe Dooley's 200th Win

ECU's Ludgy Debaut drives for one of two  baskets that helped set the tone early in the Pirates' win over (5)Houston.
ECU's Ludgy Debaut drives for one of two baskets that helped set the tone early in the Pirates' win over (5)Houston. (PirateIllustrated.com photo)

East Carolina pulled off a monumental 82-73 upset of (5)Houston in Minges Coliseum Wednesday in their biggest win since the Pirates beat Dwayne Wade and 9th ranked Marquette back in 2002.

The victory snapped Houston's eight game win streak and ECU's five game losing streak. Joe Dooley came into the game seeking his 200th career victory and he picked a good one in which to do it.

“The biggest thing is for us on a consistent basis learning how to win every day. Little things do matter. Believing that they can win the game. Now that they see they can win, hopefully that will give us some confidence moving forward,” Dooley told PI afterward, “It’s a great win. I enjoy them all. It was a really good win for our program and it’s hopefully something we can build on.”

“I thought the guys played to win which was important, not just to play hard,“ Dooley said, “I thought we competed and tried to win the game. We had a lot of guys step up. Tristen (Newton) and Jayden (Gardner) and I thought it was a really good team effort especially with some guys down so a real good win for our guys.”

In order to win these kinds of games, the ball has to go in the basket with regularity and that is what the Pirates did Wednesday night.

“We shot the ball well which makes up for a multitude of sins. I thought in stretches our defense was pretty good, but I thought on offense moreso because we did not turn it over,” Dooley told PirateIllustrated.com, “It was good that the guys made good decisions with the ball. We were not reckless. I did think the ball did move pretty well. We had twenty assists on 27 field goals and that’s a pretty good offensive ratio.”

Jayden Gardner led five Pirates in double figures with 21 points and 14 rebounds to go along with 17 points from Tremont Robinson-White and 14 from Bitumba Baruti. Dejon Jarreau led Houston with 25 points along with 17 from Marcus Sasser.

But it was the guard play of Tristen Newton and Tremont Robinson-White that largely set the tone for the victorious Pirates in their biggest basketball victory ever in front of approximately a hundred people in Williams Arena.

With so few fans in the attendance you did not have the pandemonium that is typically associated with such a national upset of a ranked team in your own building. Jayden Gardner talked about the team celebration that mostly happened in the locker room after the game.

“I’m out of breath. We just got it in real quick. It’s amazing. We’ve been through so much adversity. We played three or four games in January. We were out like 17 days and it was tough,” said Jayden Gardner afterward, “We just had to get back in a rhythm. We’ve gotten better every game that we’ve played. UCF came back and Tulsa - we were right in there and Houston, everything clicked tonight It was great to see everybody step up. That’s a great team win and big for our program.”

“It’s amazing. Everybody was ready early. I saw some of them working off of them and I said just keep shooting,” Gardner told PirateIllustrated.com, “J.J. got some, Tre got some. It’s just amazing when the ball goes in the basket, it makes everyone’s life easier. We knew we had to be physical tonight and everybody was physical early. I’m pretty sure they felt us and we responded tonight.”

The Pirates only turned the ball over seven times and Gardner talked about getting the Cougars on the ropes late before eventually putting them away.

“We came in very prepared to get the W and that’s just how the ball falls sometimes,” said Gardner, “It’s the best one ever. Just let that sink in that you just beat a top five team in the country. That’s very surreal, that’s stuff that you just dream about.”

Gardner described how things went as the time continued to tick off the clock for Houston and it began to set in that the Cougars were not going to be able to pull it out.

“It felt like they were running out of time and they knew it. We just had to keep the lead,” said Gardner, “They made a big run and after my turnover they cut it to two but we reasserted ourselves and got the lead back and once we did, we were very comfortable because we were trading two’s instead of three’s.”

Tristen Newton who scored ten points, made all four of his free throws and dished out six assists along with Tremont Robinson-White who did an excellent job of controlling the action from the point all evening.

“We were moving the ball a lot and our job is to control the game from the point and see the game and I saw my shooters were hitting,” Newton told PI, “So I get to the lane, they’re going to crash and I fan it out and they’re going to hit it.”

ECU next travels to Memphis with a chance to validate Wednesday night’s victory in a 2 o'clock. Saturday matchup on ESPN2.

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