Gardner's Fifth Double-Double Vaults Pirates Past N.C. A&T 77-57
ECU had little difficulty in dispatching N.C. A&T State in a twenty point 77-57 victory in front of good crowd of 4,761 in Minges Coliseum Friday night. Jayden Gardner scored 27 points to lead the Pirates and a personal record tying six treys from Shawn Williams led to a season high 18 points.
It was Gardner’s fifth double-double of the year. He had 13 rebounds for an ECU team that dominated the glass 43 to 27. Seth LeDay and Isaac Fleming, who had a season high seven assists, scored 13 points each and both pulled down seven boards for the Pirates while Milik Gantz led the Aggies with 17 points. Amari Hamilton and Tyrone Lyons both added nine points each for A&T State.
ECU held the Aggies two top scorers, Terry Harris who came into the game averaging 11.5 points and Qua Copeland (13.1ppg) to a combined two points in the victory.
After the game Gardner talked about what he felt were the keys to the Pirates’ seventh victory of the season.
“We really dictated the tempo early and we’ve been focused on it in practice just trying to get better,” said Gardner, “We knew A&T was a game where we could get better and we played a lot of good defense, we passed the ball well and we shot it good so it’s nice to see all of those things come together.”
Williams is a guy who is expected to hit three-pointers. He talked about getting untracked from three-point range Friday night and what that means for him moving forward.
“I’m just glad that I finally hit some shots. I’m in the gym getting some extra shots up,” Williams told PirateIllustrated.com afterward, “My teammates have been encouraging me, telling me to shoot the ball. I’m glad it filled and now the offense can flow a little better.”
A&T is a team that came in last year and beat ECU and Williams talked about not letting that happen again this year.
“We were talking about that a lot. They were not going to come in here and beat us again,” Williams said, “They’re a good team, they’ve played a lot of good teams early so we just made sure that we came out and handled business early from the beginning.”
“Initially I thought the best part that got us going was obviously at the defensive end. We guarded very well. They only hit 31 percent in the first half. They are an efficient offensive team,” said ECU head coach Joe Dooley after the game, “I thought that gave us some confidence because we got some stops.”
“I thought in the first half with the exception of turning it over, our defense was terrific but what happens is when we turned it over they turned it into points. That was bad. Eleven turnovers in the first half is too many,” Dooley stated, “We’ve got to get back to where we were a couple of weeks ago but overall I thought it was a pretty solid performance.”
After a ten day layoff between games and just three games total in the month of December, Dooley talked about where his team is development wise heading into January.
"We've been noticeably better in practice but the speed of the game is a lot quicker," said Dooley, "but the guys have been practicing at a lot quicker pace and I think it's helped."
The Aggies got 26 of their points from their bench while ECU held A&T to just 38.2 percent shooting including just 5 of 22 from the arc. The Pirates got twenty of their points on second chance buckets and 34 points in the paint.
ECU(7-5) jumped out to an early 16-4 lead on seven early points from Shawn Williams in the first twelve minutes of the contest. Jayden Gardner’s follow of a Shawn Williams miss had the Pirates up 21-7 midway through the first half.
The Aggies trimmed the lead to ten at 24-14 on a Milik Gantz basket and a three-pointer from Amari Hamilton. But 2-10 shooting from the arc from A&T State and two more baskets from Gardner and a Seth LeDay tip-in had the Pirates up 32-18. When Shawn Williams nailed a three-point jumper with 2:25 to go in the half, ECU was suddenly up by 17.
A&T(4-9) tossed in four late free throws and an Amari Hamilton trey to cut the ECU lead to 38-27 at halftime. Seth LeDay had eleven while Williams and Gardner had nine points to lead ECU at intermission while Milik Gantz scored ten to lead the Aggies at halftime.
The Pirates shot at a 47 percent clip but connected on just 6 of 12 from the stripe in the first twenty minutes to 31 percent shooting for N.C. A&T including just 3 for 12 from the arc.
Two Shawn Williams’ three-point jumpers and a Justin Obasohan baseline jumper extended the ECU lead to 59-41 midway through the second half. Then two more baseline jumpers from Jayden Gardner and Seth LeDay bolstered a 65-46 ECU lead with under eight minutes to go and the Pirates cruised the rest of the way.
ECU next travels to Dallas to take on SMU in Moody Coliseum next Wednesday night at 8 o’clock to open American Athletic Conference play.