PirateIllustrated - Slow ECU Start The Difference In An 85-74 Home Loss to Temple
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Slow ECU Start The Difference In An 85-74 Home Loss to Temple

ECU's Jayden Gardner drives in the paint for two of his game high 27 points Wednesday night in Minges Coliseum.
ECU's Jayden Gardner drives in the paint for two of his game high 27 points Wednesday night in Minges Coliseum. (PirateIllustrated.com photo)

Temple jumped on ECU early Wednesday night and that proved to be largely the difference in a 85-74 victory over the Pirates in Minges Coliseum.

Shizz Alston’s 23 points led four Owls in double-figures. Quinton Rose tossed in 19, Nate Pierre-Louis had 16 and Ernest Aklakpui added a double-double with twelve points and twelve boards.

National Freshman of the Week Jayden Gardner once again led all scorers for ECU(8-9/1-4 AAC) with 27 points. Pirate guard K.J. Davis added 15 while Seth LeDay had 12 and Isaac Fleming tossed in 11.

But Gardner got off to a slow first half with just six points before heating up in the second period with 21 and afterward he described his Wednesday night’s performance.

“I played awful. I’ve just got to play better than that and understand when to take the right shots and I’ve got to trust my teammates,” Gardner told PirateIllustrated.com, “I settled down in the second half. My teammates started finding me the ball and I started hitting shots and made some key free throws down the stretch. We just all have to play together and play good on defense. It was just a bad loss today.”

The Owls’ fast 24-4 start in the first seven minutes included four different Temple players scoring six early points each. Seth LeDay’s basket in the paint at the 11:47 mark of the first half was ECU’s first made shot since the first possession of the contest.

“We didn’t come out to play today and it took us to just come together and rally our guys up at halftime. We went over everything we did wrong in the locker room. We went out in the second half pretty hard,” Davis said in the post game.

“East Carolina is a really good basketball team and we knew they were going to make a run,” Temple head coach Fran Dunphy said after the game, “Then they made another great run at the start of the second half.”

Joe Dooley addressed the slow start issue that has seemed to plague the Pirates in many of their losses this season.

“I’m very disappointed with the start and I don’t think that we’ve played like that in a while. Obviously a lot of that is attributed to Temple, but we just didn’t seem in sync from the get go. Obviously getting down 24-4 doesn’t help,” ECU head coach Joe Dooley said, “We dug ourselves out of a hole which was good to see. We did fight back and then we had too many break downs on things we have not done in a long time. That was disappointing in front of a great crowd. I’m apologetic for the performance we put on. We can’t do that against a good team.”

K.J. Davis finally nailed ECUs first trey of the game and three Jaylan Gardner free throws capped a promising 10-0 run that helped the Pirates crawl back to within ten at the midway point in the first half.

The Pirates continued to crawl back in to the contest late in the half on a Shawn Williams basket and a Seth LeDay tap-in that cut the Owl lead to 29-21 before a pair of Temple baskets in the final minute gave the Owls a 37-23 cushion at the break.

Shizz Alston’s twelve points led all scorers at halftime for Temple.ECU turned the ball over ten times and hit just 25 percent from the floor including just 1-8 from three-point land in the first twenty minutes. To the Pirates' credit, they limited their second half turnovers to just four.

An early second half three-point jumper from K.J. Davis and Jayden Gardner’s subsequent drive in the lane got ECU off to a good start.. Solid defense by the Pirates then led to a shot clock violation before ECU baskets from Seth LeDay and Shawn Williams trimmed the Owl lead to five just two minutes into the second half. Three additional ECU baskets later, the Owl lead was sliced to two at 41-39 with 15:14 to play before Shawn Williams scored in the paint to cut the lead to one.

“That’s two games in a row that we didn’t do a great job the first number of minutes of the second half," Dunphy said of his Owl ball club, "But I really like Joe’s team. I think they’re doing terrific. I’ve watched enough film to see how good a team this is. Gardner is terrific player. I enjoy watching him play. Shizz Alston rescued us. He made an impossible jumper that helped us and a big one in the corner right in front of our bench as well, so when you have that kind of senior leadership you feel comfortable.”

Alston’s three-pointer followed by Nate Pierre-Louis’ dunk in the paint and a Quentin Rose trey boosted the Owl lead back to nine at 50-41 with 12:39 left.

Ernest Aflakpui then scored and Alston added a basket for Temple before an Isaac Fleming trey and Jayden Gardner’s spin move for two slowed the bleeding temporarily for ECU in a six point 56-50 contest.

Another Fleming steal and score followed by Seth LeDay’s turn around hook shot in the lane later cut the lead to six before six Temple free throws pushed the lead right back to twelve with just under six minutes to play and the Owls cruised the rest of the way.

ECU returns to action on January 23 when they travel to Houston for a 8 p.m. EST tipoff.

PI POST GAME AUDIO: TEMPLE 85 ECU 74

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