The East Carolina University men’s basketball team hosted Lamar University on Sunday and defeated the Cardinals in a nail biting overtime finish 84-78. The win improves the team’s record to 2-1 as the Pirates prepare to travel to Georgia Tech on Friday.
The Pirates did not start the game hot and found themselves down 35-29 at halftime after shooting an abysmal 39.3 percent from the floor in the half, including a 21.4 percent clip from the three-point line. The Cardinals outplayed the Pirates in all categories in the first half shooting 48.4 percent from the floor, outscoring ECU 18-14 in the paint and scoring six points in transition off seven Pirate turnovers.
The Pirates struggled early in the second half and found themselves down 57-47 with 10 minutes to play. The Pirates rallied late behind the efforts of freshmen forward Jayden Gardner and junior forward Seth LeDay who combined for 20 points in the final 10 minutes of play. LeDay capped off the Pirate comeback with a putback layup off a missed shot by freshman guard Tae Hardy with 1.3 seconds left in the game.
Gardner said he is excited with his breakout performance after struggling in the Pirates first few matchups.
“It felt really surreal to see everything starting to work out,” Gardner said. “My shots started to fall and my teammates kept giving me the ball and trusting me. Coach kept running the sets and we executed them. This team really has a lot of heart.”
The duo continued their dominance into overtime, scoring all of ECU’s 13 points and leading the Pirates to an 84-78 victory for their second win of the season.
Head coach Joe Dooley was happy to get the win, but knows there is still room to improve for his young squad after the last two close finishes.
“We have to attack every day and every game, and we’ve got to be getting better,” Dooley said after the game. “We have to create, and the attitude here is that 2-1 is average. We have to get this program to where it’s not ok to lose home games, and it’s not ok to give opponents opportunities to beat you.”
Gardner became only the third freshmen in program history to score 30 points. He also added 10 rebounds and shot an incredible 90 percent from the floor and 12-14 from the free throw line. LeDay only played five minutes in the first half, but came alive in the second, scoring 16 points, nabbing nine rebounds and collecting three steals in 24 minutes of play.
“Coach Rocc (assistant coach Steve Roccaforte) woke me up at halftime and I had to realize what kind of player I am,” LeDay said. “I knew I had to get to the boards as much as I could, and I was playing off Jayden since he was playing so well. I was trying to move and cut and play off him and we ended up getting the win.”
LeDay and Gardner are joined on the stat sheet by freshmen guard Tyler Foster who finished with 12 points and three rebounds. Tae Hardy finished with 10 points, as well as sophomore guard K.J. Davis, who notched 12 points and three assists.
The Pirates return to action on Friday, as the team travels to Atlanta to face Georgia Tech for a matchup set to begin at 7:30 p.m.