East Carolina Basketball Preview: Spiders slip past Pirates in OT, 67-65
Friday, November 16, 2007
East Carolina received the spark it needed when junior college transfer James Legan drained a couple threes to pull his team within 34-27 at the break.
The Pirates carried that momentum into the second half and took advantage of Spider stud Dan Geriot having to sit due to foul trouble. Taylor Gagnon’s free throw capped a 23-6 run to open the half and gave East Carolina a 50-40 lead with 10:49 remaining.
Geriot would re-enter the game shortly thereafter and the versatile big man’s impact was immediate. He finished the contest with 22 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists.
UR chipped away at the ECU lead and went onto win in overtime for a second straight season. It did, however, have to dodge game winning shot opportunities for the Pirates at the end of regulation and overtime.
The Pirates aren’t accustomed to playing with the lead and that was apparent with their impatient, undisciplined approach down the stretch.
Assessing the performance, East Carolina rebounded well overall (37-25 advantage), but it failed to pull down a couple of critical ones in the waning minutes—allowing Richmond multiple shot possessions.
After allowing 24 points in the first nine minutes, the Pirates allowed only 43 points over the final 36 minutes of action. It was this determined defensive effort that fueled the huge run they made.
When he signed with the program, James Legan was brought in for his ability to provide instant offense off the bench. He did just that in only second game, finishing with 10 points; however, he also forced the issue at times.
The brightest spot of the game was the play of sophomore power forward Gabe Blair. Blair, who has been known for his defense, delivered much sought after scoring that he has been unable to produce for the majority of his career. The 6’8 Kings Mountain-native notched his second double double in as many seasons against Richmond. This time he concluded the game with a career-high 19 points and 12 boards.
The backcourt’s play must improve. The trio of Darrell Jenkins, Sam Hinnant and Cory Farmer combined to shoot 4-of-21 in the game. Farmer did not score and turned it over four times.
Taylor Gagnon was effective—finishing with five points and five boards in 15 minutes. John Fields had seven points, four rebounds and three blocks in the game. As a result of Richmond’s style of play, Chad Wynn only saw a couple minutes of action.
Lookin’ ahead to Liberty…
Last season, East Carolina raced out to a 15-1 lead in Lynchburg before losing 64-56 to Liberty. The win was the Flames first over the Pirates, who lead the series, 5-1.
While both programs feature a lot of similar personnel with regards to the players present, each has a new head coach this time around.
Liberty Director of Athletics Jeff Barber, who is an East Carolina alum, did a fabulous job of finding the Flames’ program a proven winner in Ritchie McKay.
McKay, who has a career mark of 165-158, made head coaching stops at Portland State, Colorado State, Oregon State and New Mexico prior to being brought to Lynchburg to lead the Flames. He led the Lobos from 2003 through last season and recorded the second best season in UNM history in 2005 when his team finished 26-7.
McKay’s staff features Dale Layer, who spent last season as the head coach at Colorado State. Layer took over the Rams’ program after McKay bolted to Corvallis, OR and Oregon State.
Liberty defeated Division II Coker, 64-49, on Tuesday night to reach the win column for the first time in the McKay Era. The Flames (1-3) had dropped three straight to open the season—losing to San Diego State (62-50), Fresno State (71-62) and Portland (73-62) in the World Vision Classic in Fresno, CA.
Offensively, the Flames are still learning the system of their first year coach and that has been reflected in their output to date. They are averaging less than 60 points (59.5) per game and shooting only 29.7 percent from long range.
Junior guard/forward Anthony Smith (6-5, 215), who plays nearly 36 minutes each time out, paces the team with 13.3 points while also grabbing 6.3 rebounds per game.
Kyle Ohman (SR., 6-4, 200) is considered by Coach McKay to probably be the best long range shooter on the team and it is reflected in 10-of-21 effort from behind the arc. He had 15 points in his first start of the season against Coker—all of which came on three-pointers.
Sophomore B.J. Jenkins has started all four games in the backcourt. The 6-0, 168-pounder is averaging 7.8 points per game, but has struggled shooting the basketball (31.4%). He has dished out 14 assists, but has turned the ball over 13 times.
On the inside, Alex McLean (6-8, 235) is a consistently solid contributor. The senior forward is putting up 12.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game in his final season with the Flames. Fellow senior Rell Porter (6-7, 195) assists him down low and is averaging 6.3 points in a little over 29 minutes per contest. There is also 6’11, 235-pound senior Russell Monroe, but he has played sparingly thus far.
Keys to Victory for ECU
Final ECU Prediction & Analysis
The psyche of a young team will be tested following the Pirates’ overtime loss on Tuesday. East Carolina, which has shown more intensity under its new regime, will receive a better performance from its backcourt en route to avenging last year’s loss to Liberty.
East Carolina 69 - Liberty 59