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Pirates plunder Owls

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ECU's Michel Nzege fights to get past Temple's Obi Enechionyia on Feb. 15, 2017. (Joe Pellegrino/The Daily Reflector)


The Daily Reflector

Thursday, February 16, 2017

East Carolina followed one of its most disappointing losses of the season with one of its most impressive victories and perhaps provided a glimpse of greener pastures for the Pirates as they head down the home stretch of the regular season.

Four ECU players reached double-figure scoring, Kentrell Barkley notched his third consecutive double-double despite not starting for the first time this season and B.J. Tyson saw his first game action since Jan. 11 in a 78-64 win over Temple in Minges Coliseum on Wednesday.

Michel Nzege played his best game of the season for the Pirates (12-14, 4-9 American Athletic Conference), who lost at South Florida on Saturday. USF had lost 12 in a row prior to tip-off of that game in Tampa, but the ECU club that could not make an 11-2 lead stand up against the Bulls blitzed Temple (14-13, 5-9) in the second half to move to 11-4 at home this season.

Nzege had season highs of 11 points and eight rebounds, and along with Tyson provided a lift the Pirates needed.

“It’s been a frustrating season for me so I had to just put that aggressiveness on somebody,” Nzege, a 6-foot-8 senior forward said. “I laid it tonight on (Temple).”

Barkley, who interim coach Michael Perry said did not start for disciplinary reasons, led all players with 19 points and 13 rebounds and senior Caleb White scored 17 for ECU, which outscored the Owls 41-26 after halftime to beat them for second straight time in Greenville.

Having his games started streak come to an end did not seem to bother Barkley, who played 32 minutes — second behind White’s 35 for ECU — and added four assists, two steals and a blocked shot.

“I was ready when my number was called,” Barkley said.

Andre Washington, who finished with 15 points for the Pirates, threw down a one-handed dunk on a nice feed from Jeremy Sheppard and a Barkley putback gave the Pirates a 46-41 lead with 15:34 left in the game. After a quick 5-0 Owls run tied it, White’s 3-pointer completed an 11-3 surge to make it 57-49 ECU.

The lead swelled to 69-52 on an Nzege tip-in with 4:36 to go and Barkley’s 3 at the 2:49 mark gave East Carolina its biggest lead, 76-57.

“Obviously whenever you have a tough loss, you can’t wait to get back on the floor and have an opportunity to redeem yourself,” said Perry, who assumed head coach duties after Jeff Lebo had hip surgery on Jan. 16. “I think they were more disappointed about (the USF) game, not just because they didn’t make shots, but because they didn’t bring the effort they’ve typically been playing with. That kind of burns at you as a competitor.

“Good things happen when you play with that level of intensity.”

Neither team led by more than five points in the first half, and ECU’s largest lead of the half was four when Sheppard and Washington each had buckets to start the scoring.

Elijah Hughes nailed a 3-pointer to give the Pirates a 28-25 edge, but a 10-2 Temple run capped by Damion Moore’s layup put the Owls ahead 35-30. Washington made a pair of free throws to pull ECU within one, 38-37, at halftime.

Mark Williams led Temple with 15 points and Quinton Rose added 14 for the Owls, who shot 35.9 percent from the field, including 31.3 percent in the second half.

Tyson, who injured his left knee in a home loss to Houston, played 13 minutes and finished with three points, three rebounds and four assists.

“He’s an all-conference type player,” Nzege said of Tyson, whose 11.9 points per game average was a team-high before tip-off. “He didn’t make the type of shots he usually makes, but he was out for seven, eight games. He’s going to come back to it. I still feel like he made plays out there.”

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