PirateIllustrated - Tulsa Prevails Late In a 77-68 Victory Over East Carolina
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Tulsa Prevails Late In a 77-68 Victory Over East Carolina

East Carolina hung around for the longest time but Tulsa did too and when the Pirates finally cooled off late it led to 77-68 loss in Minges Coliseum on Saturday.

Brandon Rachel led Tulsa with 21 points and Rey Idowu had 16 points and ten rebounds to lead four Golden Hurricanes in double-digits. Jayden Gardner led all scorers with 26 points and eight rebounds along with 15 from Tremont Robinson-White for ECU but in the end it just wasn’t enough.

“It’s very frustrating. We’ve got to figure out how to win. We’ve got to be able to execute down the stretch, listen better and execute better in the X’s and O’s

and we weren’t able to do that tonight,” said Gardner who after the game told PirateIllustrated.com what his team did better on Saturday, “Moving the ball, we had 21 assists. We had really struggled in the zone in the past and in practice just working on it. We moved the ball very well. Unfortunately, we didn’t get enough stops tonight.”

Tulsa(9-6/6-4 AAC) made 50 percent of their shots despite making just 6 of 16 from three-point land. ECU was limited to 43 percent and just 5 of 18 from long range. The big story was Tulsa getting to the free throw line 32 times where the made 23 to just 13 of 18 for the Pirates. Trying to win when you aren’t getting the same benefit n terms of fouls was no easy task.

“It’s hard. You look and obviously there are mistakes made both ways officiating, there was a couple when you watch the tape you go back and it bothers you, but that’s not the reason we lost the game. There were 50-50 balls, we’ve got to guard better and there were a couple of offensive possessions that I wish we could had back,” ECU head coach Joe Dooley told PirateIllustrated.com after the game.

“It’s a fragile thing. I felt pretty good going into Christmas. We won the games we should win, now we can get better when we come back. Now we’ve had a bit of a rough stretch and it is what it is. The big thing is how to you stay together, how do you get better, how to you compete and clean up some things and try to get our guys better.”

For ECU(7-6/1-6 AAC) the process continues to try to get more competitive in a league full of programs that have traditionally played a quality brand of basketball.

“It’s part of learning how to win. There’s really a handful of plays in the first half and second half that set the tone and how do you close out, making sure that when we get a stop that we rebound the ball,” said Dooley, “If there is a possession that doesn’t necessarily go, at least we get a better shot or get to the free throw line. That was the big difference. They shot a bunch of free throws and that was the big differential.”

In the end it comes down to getting stops on the defensive end of the court and trying to avoid putting the other team on the foul line too much.

“Today what cost us was our defense. We scored enough points at home to win the game if you don’t put them on the free throw line and get a couple of timely stops. We had 21 assists on 25 field goals,” Dooley said, “We did some some good things. Were there some possessions that were off kilter, yes but I thought it was our defense on a lot of things that we know how to guard that we’ve got to clean up quickly.”

“They were aggressive coming down off the dribble. We’ll just work on guarding it better in practice,” said ECU guard J.J. Miles who scored 13 points to go along with six assists, “We’re right there. We’ve just got to do it in practice and get the full team back. We’ll have Tyree (Jackson) back and he’s a big part of the team we’ll be good going into next week.”

ECU did find creative ways on both ends of the floor to stay in the ballgame in the first half while avoiding major scoring droughts. Jayden Gardner got off early for ten points in the first eleven minutes and Miles scored five. Tulsa led 27-23 with 5:42 to go in the half on a three-point Austin Richie jumper.

Richie launched in four treys by halftime in his 14 first half points along with 12 from Rey Idowu in a 37-35 Tulsa contest at halftime. Gardner’s twelve points and ten points from Tremont Robinson-White including a pair of treys led the Pirates in the first twenty minutes.

A 9 to 2 Tulsa start suddenly had the Golden Hurricane up 46-39 early in the second half before a 7-1 ECU run cut the Tulsa lead to two. The Pirates then took a brief 54-53 lead on a pair of Jayden Gardner free throws midway into the period.

A Gardner fall-away jumper then gave ECU a 63-61 lead with just under five minutes remaining. The two teams and were tied with two minutes to play before a pair of Pirate scoreless possessions that Tulsa converted at the other end of the court found Tulsa up by five at 70-65 with 1:28 to go.

Then timely free throws down the stretch made the difference for the Golden Hurricane while ECU cooled off on the offensive end and Tulsa was ultimately able to put the game away to pick up the win.

“I was disappointed in the way we closed it out. We had a couple of opportunities. You’ve got to give Tulsa credit. They made some plays, especially (Brandon) Rachal and (Elijah) Joyner, ” Dooley said, “I thought the real key to the basketball game was (Darien) Jackson. I thought he played with great energy and really got a couple of loose balls for them and did some things. Defensively he had a steal and gave them a lot of energy that really helped them.”

East Carolina takes to the floor again next Wednesday when the Pirates host Houston at 6 o’clock.

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