basketball

Freshman guard Tristen Newton in a game against the university of Cincinnati 

The guard position is heavily relied upon in the game of basketball. Beyond just scoring, great guards are separated from the rest by their ability to adapt, lead and defend some of the most dangerous players on opposing teams.

For the East Carolina University (11-19, 5-12 AAC) men’s basketball team this season, it has been a necessity that its guards play exceptionally well in order to get a victory. Recently, the Pirates have only won twice out of their last 10 games. However, many of the losses were tightly contested due to the stepped up play from the Pirates at the guard position.

Freshman guard Tristen Newton has formed into a reliable scorer for the Pirates this season, and he continues to improve with every game. He averages 10.7 points per game for the season, but in his last five games, he has averaged 15.8 points per game. Including a career-high 25 points in the recent loss against the University of Connecticut (17-12, 8-8 AAC), Newton has been able to tie and surpass his own records multiple times in his freshman year.

“He (Newton) just continued to get better,” head coach Joe Dooley said. “Look where he was in November, to his credit, he probably shouldn’t have been on the floor. Now he’s figured some things out and he’s being more aggressive. I think his play has been very good.”

Newton also had a dominant game in the loss to the University of Memphis (20-9, 9-7 AAC) on Feb. 19 where he put up 23 points with a career-high 13 rebounds.

Doing more for the team than just scoring, Newton leads the Pirates in assists. So far this season he’s averaged 3.7 assists per game. The second-highest assist average comes from sophomore guard Tremont Robinson-White, who averages 2.3 assists per game.

Robinson-White has also played well for the Pirates this season. He has averaged 7.2 points this season, and hit a season-high of 21 points against Temple earlier this season.

Before he was a Pirate, Robinson-White played for Northwest Mississippi Community College where he averaged 18.3 points and 5.4 assists as a freshman. He also put up 20 points or more in 10 games that season, with three of those being at least 30 point games.

Robinson-White has the ability to do a little bit of everything and plays well on both sides of the ball. During his freshman year, he put up 12 points, 12 assists and 10 steals to give him his only triple-double of his young career. His defensive ability was brought to ECU this season when he picked off a season-high five steals, causing chaos for the opponent.

Scoring leader of the Pirates, sophomore forward Jayden Gardner has been able to keep his scoring numbers up enough to continue to lead the AAC, but he has struggled to start the game hot in several of ECU’s losses.

He is averaging only six points in the first half over the last five games in comparison to his 19.8 points per game this season. The only outlier recently was his 17 point first half performance against Temple University (14-15, 6-10 AAC), which was the only win for the Pirates in the last five games.

“It’s really on us as guards to put him in a better position to score,” Newton said. “We got to move around on offense, and we can’t just give it to him and stand.”

With the absence of Gardner’s first half scoring, players at the guard position have needed to step up their game in order to keep up with opponents.

Injuries have plagued the Pirates team throughout the season causing multiple players to miss games. Currently, junior guard Tyrie Jackson is out and has not played since the Pirates lost to Memphis in mid-February.

Jackson has contributed good scoring numbers for his team this season. He averages seven points per game and 3.4 rebounds per game. He also leads his team in free throw percentage, shooting 87% from the line. He holds a season-high of 20 points, which he hit early this season against Rice University (14-15, 6-10 C-USA).

This season has had its ups and downs for Jackson. There have been games where he lights it up, and there have been games when he could not get a bucket. His scoring ability is missed by the Pirates and they look forward to his return.

The Pirates will end their regular season on the road against the University of Central Florida (14-13, 5-10 AAC) on Sunday. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m.

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