The past two games have come down to the wire for the East Carolina University men’s basketball team, as it had to go to overtime against both the University of Memphis Tigers and the Tulane University Green Wave.
On Saturday, the Pirates (9-13, 3-8 AAC) took on the Tigers (14-9, 5-5 AAC) in what would be their second-straight overtime thriller in Minges Coliseum.
ECU went down 80-78 in the first minute of the extra period. Redshirt freshman guard Shawn Williams nailed back-to-back threes to go up 84-80. Williams went to knock down the final four free throws of the game to get the 88-85 victory.
Both teams shot 2-for-6 from the field. For the Pirates, both field goals came from Williams and from behind the three-point line. ECU held onto the ball and committed zero turnovers in the extra period. The Pirates forced Memphis to shoot 1-for-5 from three in OT and commit two crucial turnovers in the period to steal the game.
“Before going into OT against Memphis, Barkley pulled us all together and rallied us in,” Guard Isaac Fleming said. “He told us we could not lose that one, we had to get it no matter what. So we went into that overtime period saying we had no choice but to win, and that’s what we did.”
Against Tulane, ECU could not close out the game and lost 71-69. Both teams struggled to put the ball in the basket. The Pirates scored the first and only basket in OT to go up 69-67 at the time, thanks to a layup by Williams.
Following that, ECU committed four turnovers. After The Green Wave scored the go-ahead basket in the last 40 seconds of the game, guard B.J. Tyson turned the ball over in the final seconds giving Tulane the 71-69 victory.
“Coach Perry talked to me and told me what I did was a freshman mistake,” Williams said. “He told me to put that in the past, and move on to the next game. When I committed that turnover in the end against Memphis, it kinda hit me all over again.”
In both games, Williams scored basically all of the points in the extra period, with the two against Tulane and 10 of the 11 against the Tigers. Williams’ was named American Athletic Conference Rookie-of-the-Week for the third time this season, after scoring a career-high 30 points against Memphis on Saturday. However, the scoring was not the only thing that would impact the games.
ECU did shoot a combined 3-for-10 from the field and a combined 2-for-4 from deep in the two overtime periods. Getting to the free throw line in clutch situations can make the difference between a win and a loss. Against Tulane, both teams did not go to the line. With Memphis, the Pirates shot six free throws and went 5-for-6 in the win, while the Tigers went 3-for-4.
With overtime, the number of turnovers committed helped determine the outcome of both games as well. When ECU committed five turnovers against Tulane, it lost in the end. Against Memphis, when the Pirates held onto the ball they had more quality shot opportunities and won the game.
“We want to play well, but at the end of the day we want to win these games,” interim head coach Michael Perry said. “We don’t want to just play well and lose close. One of the first things we looked at the next day after Tulane was the overtime period. The guys started understanding the value of one turnover in the extra period. The guys saw that and grew from that.”
The next game for the Pirates will be on Wednesday against the Temple University Owls. ECU won the series last year 2-1, winning the last two matchups. The Pirates will look to bring that win streak against the Owls to three games in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.