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ECU loses game, Tyson

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Houston's Armoni Brooks (3) shoots during a game against ECU on Jan. 11, 2017. (Joe Pellegrino/The Daily Reflector)

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By Tony Castleberry
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Losing its fourth consecutive game against Houston on Wednesday night might be the least of East Carolina’s concerns.

The Cougars hammered the Pirates 74-58 in Minges Coliseum, and shortly after B.J. Tyson threw down an alley-oop dunk with 6:59 remaining, Tyson had to be helped off the floor with a left knee injury. He returned to the bench using crutches to watch the final minutes of ECU’s fourth consecutive defeat, and coach Jeff Lebo said in the postgame news conference the extent of Tyson’s injury will likely be known after an MRI today.

East Carolina (9-9, 1-4 American Athletic Conference) struggled to make shots again even when Tyson, the team’s leading scorer, was on the floor. Without him, a dismal start to league play could become an extended struggle, especially with AAC power Cincinnati coming to Greenville for a Sunday game.  

“I saw him lay (the ball) in and then he was hobbling back (on defense),” Lebo said. “It must have been on his (landing) after the layup.”

Houston (13-4, 4-1) took it to the Pirates shortly after ECU’s Andre Washington won the opening tip. Washington was whistled for a three-second violation on the Pirates’ first possession, Cougar star Rob Gray opened the scoring with a 3-pointer and UH was off and running, nailing its first seven shots from beyond the arc en route to a 13-of-23 night from deep.

Gray, a Forest City native who scored a game-high 19 points, had eight of Houston's first 14 points and assisted on a Wes VanBeck 3 that gave the Cougars a 14-4 lead with 15:45 left in the first half. Damyean Dotson nailed another triple in front of ECU's bench to make it 26-13, prompting an East Carolina timeout at the 11:19 mark.

After another Dotson 3, Armoni Brooks scored 12 straight for the Cougars, and Gray calmly drilled a 27-footer at the halftime buzzer to make it 47-25 UH. 

“We didn’t execute on defense,” said Kentrell Barkley, who led the Pirates with 13 points. “We didn’t stay in the gaps, and if we were in the gaps, we over-helped sometimes and they penetrated. If (Washington) tried to block it, we’ve got to have that second and third attempt to get the ball. I don’t think we played with a sense of urgency in the first half.”

UH took its biggest lead, 50-27, after a VanBeck 3-pointer 37 seconds into the second half, but Caleb White made ECU's second 3 of the game at the 9:19 mark to cut Houston's lead to 59-45. Brooks answered with a triple to set his career scoring high of 15 points, and Gray made two free throws to push the lead to 64-45 with 8:10 remaining.

The closest East Carolina got the rest of the way was after White hit another 3 that made it 72-58 with 2:24 left. White finished 2-of-7 from deep, part of the Pirates’ 3-of-22 effort from beyond the arc. ECU is shooting 21-of-98 from 3-point range in AAC play.

“When you don’t shoot it well, there’s just nothing you can get (going) to the basket,” Lebo said of teams essentially giving the Pirates shots from outside. “They’re all packed in there and it’s a frustrating thing. ... They work at it. I don’t know what you do (to improve the team’s shooting). I have no idea. If you know, let me know.” 

Washington had 12 points and a game-high 11 rebounds for ECU, which also got 12 points from White. The Pirates made just 34.0 percent (17-of-50) of their field goals, but went 21-of-27 (77.8 percent) at the free throw line.

VanBeck finished with 13 points for the Cougars, and Dotson added 12 points and a team-best 10 rebounds. 

Contact Tony Castleberry at tcastleberry@reflector.com, 252-329-9591 and follow @tcastleberrygdr on Twitter.

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