basketball Edit

Wichita State Survives a New Year's Dog Fight With ECU 75-69

Jayden Gardner led ECU with 29 points and 10 rebounds in a 75-69 loss at (24)Wichita State.
Jayden Gardner led ECU with 29 points and 10 rebounds in a 75-69 loss at (24)Wichita State. (AP Photo)

Jayden Gardner’s double-double of 29 points and 10 rebounds had ECU within reach but the Pirates ultimately fell to (24)Wichita State 75-69 on New Year’s Day afternoon at Koch Arena.

Erik Stevenson led four players in double digits with 17 points to go along with 15 from Jamarius Burton and 11 points each from Trey Wade and Tyson Etienne for the 12-1 Shockers.

Gardner did a solid job both ends of the floor and he got plenty of help on the offensive end from an ever deeper ECU lineup that included 12 points from J.J. Miles, 11 points from Tremont Robinson-White and nine points from Brandon Suggs.

“Jayden (Gardner) was spectacular. It shows how much he’s worked on his face up game,” said ECU head coach Joe Dooley, “He wasn’t around the basket as much. He had a couple of good finishes at the basket. He made some midrange gains and he drove the ball good which were a couple of big plays.”

Dooley was pleased with the play of several of his other players as well.

“I thought the other guys did good too. J.J. (Miles) gave us some good minutes. He’s starting to get his feet under him, get better and get a little acclimated. I thought Tristen (Newton) gave us some good minutes in the first half and Bitumba (Baruti) gave us some good minutes and all the guys played hard,” Dooley said, “Samson Strictland came in and battled, got us a steal and was solid offensively. He play just three minutes, but those three minutes helped our team.”

ECU(6-8) committed 12 of their 17 turnovers in the first half and despite the Pirates not getting much help in the foul department when they had the basketball it was easy to see the development of a still very young team that signals brighter days just around the corner.

After the game, Dooley put things in perspective after his team gained a good deal of worldly experience against a ranked opponent and where he feels they can get better.

“We made some ill timed turnovers both in the first half and second half. I think we got a little sped up and took a few bad shots. It wasn’t lack of effort. We’ve got to get some cohesion and get to where we’re a little more patient offensively,” said Dooley, “I thought we played hard and we competed. We’ve just got to clean up some things and continue to try to get better.”

Anytime you hang around for forty minutes with a ranked team on their home court of the pedigree of 12-1 Wichita State, you’re likely on the right track.

“It’s a great atmosphere and I think we got a little awestruck from the beginning. They had us down and we started to figure a little way out. We dug around and dug around. We didn’t help ourselves turning it over twelve times in the first half,” Dooley stated, “We did a better job in the second half of not turning it over. I thought we played our way out of foul trouble.”

“We had a good stretch where we got some stops, but we also had a stretch where we had eight straight possessions where we didn’t score. The thing you’re looking for there is when you’re not scoring, does your defense bend a little bit and it didn’t look like our defense bent. We tried a little harder.”

The Shockers jumped out to a quick 9-0 lead before Tremont Robinson-White’s runner in the lane and a Jayden Gardner jumper broke the early ECU drought.

Two J.J. Miles jumpers trimmed the Wichita State lead to two at 19-17 and ECU kept things close with a defensive stop and a score at the other end of the floor in the paint from Jayden Gardner in a 25-21 contest midway into the half. Gardner and Miles accounted for 17 of ECU’s points in the first ten minutes alone.

Javarius Burton’s baseline jumper for his first half leading twelfth point helped Wichita State jump out to a 30-21 lead over the course of the next five minutes.

But Brandon Suggs’ three-pointer and a J.J. Miles midrange jumper for ECU cut the Shockers’ lead back to as little as four points before an Eric Stevenson assist to Morris Udeze in the paint gave Wichita State a seven-point 37-30 halftime lead.

J.J. Miles led ECU with ten first half points to go along with nine points each from Suggs and Gardner.

Wichita State got to the foul line twelve times in the first twenty minutes to just once for ECU, but the Shockers made just 7 of 13 attempts while both teams made 48.1 percent of their overall shots from the field in the twenty minutes. Both teams were fairly close in rebounding with 16 and 15 boards respectively.

Five minutes into the second half a Gardner trey and his subsequent basket in the paint over Trey Wade chopped a ten point Wichita State lead to three before a Tristen Newton drive got ECU to within one point at 44-43 with 14:29 to play.

Bitumba Baruti’s drive to the basket briefly gave ECU the lead at 45-44 at the 12:46 mark before a Stevenson trey eventually gave Wichita a five point working margin with just over eleven minutes remaining.

ECU cut the lead to two again on baskets from J.J. Miles and Gardner before two Etienne three-pointers and a pair of Burton free throws and a Wade dunk pushed the Wichita State lead back to eleven. Jaime Echenique recovered a Grant Sherfield missed trey and converted it into a three point play in the paint that had the Shockers up by eight points with four minutes to go.

But Gardner’s three-point play in the paint and his subsequent jumper from the baseline kept ECU in the game at 70-65 at the three minute mark.

Echenique’s fifth foul on an over the back call after a missed Shocker shot attempt led to a Jayden Gardner bucket. Then after an ECU defensive stop at the other end of the floor, the Pirates were unable to capitalize after a Robinson-White turnover led to a Wichita free throw and a four point 71-67 lead with :33 seconds left.

Wichita turned a blocked shot of a Robinson-White layup attempt into one Burton free throw and eventually a Wade free throw and suddenly Wichita was up by six. A Gardner basket in the paint got ECU back to within four at 73-69 before a pair of Stevenson free throws with eight seconds left finally put the game on ice.

ECU returns home to take on USF as conference play continues next Tuesday night in Minges Coliseum. Game time is at 7 o’clock.