Any fantasies East Carolina had of an upset over No. 14 Virginia quickly turned into a reality check as the Cavaliers crushed the Pirates 76-53 Tuesday night in John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Virginia.

ECU hung with UVa for a while, even leading 16-15 as late as 9:00 left in the first half, but a 23-4 Virginia run quickly put the game away 11 minutes later as the score at half was 42-20.

“I think Virginia played awfully well and shot the ball outstanding,” ECU head coach Jeff Lebo said. “We were okay until about that ten minute point and then they rattled off about six in a row, and that was really the difference in the game.” 

ECU’s close start with the Cavaliers could be contributed to hot shooting from the three, however it seemed that got them in trouble as they fell in love with the deep ball. The Pirates did not attempt a single free throw until midway through the second half.

ECU shot 36.7 percent from the field and 43.5 percent from behind the 3-point line. The Pirates routinely faced problems with Virginia’s smothering defense as they turned the ball over 13 times. ECU’s guards received intense hedging pressure from the Virginia bigs all the way out to half court and could not capitalize and attack the rim resulting in missed opportunities. 

“It’s harder to mimic what they do defensively in practice and prepare,” ECU guard B.J. Tyson said. “Once you get out here and you are playing them it actually feels like they have eight guys out there at one time.”

Inside for the Pirates was just as bad. ECU has out-rebounded every team so far this year, but the bigs could not get the same success against their Cavaliers counterparts. Virginia also won the points-in-the-paint battle 36-10, indicating how much more effectively they controlled the paint than the Pirates.

As time went on, Virginia picked up momentum on both ends of the floor. The Cavs consistently got open shots that were not falling in the beginning. At first, they simply missed their open shots allowing ECU to lead, but soon the shots started to fall more and more.

During the second half, Virginia’s open jump shots turned into uncontested easy layups every time down the floor. ECU simply could not stop Virginia’s pick and roll offense, allowing either a layup by the guard or a layup by the rolling big man. After chasing for several minutes of the second half, the game was out of reach for the Pirates.

“They play very physical,” Lebo said. “They take away everything in the paint, they do this against everybody not just against us, and you’re going to have to make contested shots to beat them.”

Andre Washington played his worst game as a Pirate, finishing with no points and five turnovers. On the other hand, a bright spot for ECU was the play of Jeremy Sheppard. Sheppard scored indouble figures as he finished with a game-high 17 points.

For Sheppard, who was one of three ECU players playing in their home state of Virginia, along with Caleb White and Washington, it was continued success as he has improved every game. Sheppard set a new career-high for points scored again this season; something he has maintained or accomplished in every game.

It was one of those games where the difference in talent was simply too much for ECU when playing against the No.14 Cavaliers. It seemed to not matter which statistical category you used to analyze the game, the verdict was the same: Virginia dominated. Coming off of a loss to rival West Virginia, it was expected for Virginia to take out frustrations on the Pirates and it delivered.

ECU will look to bounce back and improve from the tough matchup at UVa when it plays against College of Charleston later in the month. 

“We got a lot of learning to do,” Tyson said. “If we want to go to the (NCAA) tournament these are the kinds of teams we have to play against.”

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