The East Carolina men’s basketball team picked up an American Athletic Conference win at home Saturday over the Tulane Green Wave, 74-65, after suffering back-to-back away losses at Memphis and Southern Methodist.
The Pirates (11-13, 3-8 AAC) came into Saturday’s game after being handed a 40-point beatdown by the Mustangs on Wednesday. ECU came into the game looking to put that game in the rearview, and their focus was getting the season back on track by making a late season run, starting with a struggling Green Wave (4-19, 1-10 AAC) team.
“We are at a point in the year where your team can go north or south,” interim head coach Michael Perry said. “We want to be able to change the culture and the history here, and be the team that actually goes north at this time of the season instead of south.”
Senior guard Caleb White showed the character Perry had alluded to. After a month or so of frustration and poor play, he seemed confident in his shot once again. White led the team in scoring with 20 points, and knocked down three 3-pointers.
“It was like a weight off my shoulders,” White said. “It was just about staying the course. Coach Lebo came into practice a couple times, and told me he was rooting for me. He told me that I’ve worked the hardest, that I’m one of the best shooters he’s ever had. He was in my corner, he told me I could do it. I started on that a lot, and it paid off today.”
Helping White with the scoring load were freshman Jeremy Sheppard with 18 points and sophomore guard Kentrell Barkley with 14. Barkley also pulled down 12 rebounds to earn him his sixth double-double on the season.
“It was just basically being in the play, doing the dirty work, getting my teammates involved. It was about competing, not giving up, and playing hard the entire time.” Barkley said.
Shooting beyond the arc has been the Pirates’ achilles heel the entire season, but Saturday was a different story. ECU hit most of its open 3-point attempts, and even hit a few highly contested ones as well. The Pirates finished 12-of-21 from 3-point range (57.1 percent) to greatly exceed their season total that sat at 29.7 percent.
The Pirates held a 15 point lead with 16:16 left in the second half, but a late run by Tulane brought the lead to just three points with 5:10 remaining in the game.
Big plays offensively by Sheppard and Barkley down the stretch ultimately brought the game out of reach for the Green Wave, and great overall team defense shut down any hopes for Tulane as ECU stopped it from scoring in the last 2:54 of the game.
The Pirates will look to build off of this conference win and make sure their season goes north instead of south, as they go on the road Saturday to face South Florida. Something will have to give, as the Pirates are winless on the road this season at 0-8, and USF is winless in the conference at 0-10.
“We’ve got the character, we’ve got the grit, the toughness to be able to do it. It’s within ourselves to be able to do that, but it’s up to us to do it,” Perry said.