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Pirates cruise past Coppin State

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East Carolina's Kentrell Barkley drives to the hoop for a slam dunk against Coppin State on Sunday in Minges Coliseum.

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By Nathan Summers
The Daily Reflector

Sunday, November 12, 2017

East Carolina began the basketball season in style on Sunday evening, strolling to an easy 76-50 win over Coppin State in Minges Coliseum in which the hosts almost never trailed.

Putting a retooled and recently rearranged team on the floor, the Pirates throttled the Eagles (0-2) from the opening tip, racing out to a 22-point lead at halftime and steadily building on it as time passed.

“I thought we did some good things, in particular defensively. I was very worried in this game because of (Coppin’s) ability to shoot the ball from the perimeter,” ECU eighth-year head coach Jeff Lebo said of his team, which limited the Eagles to 23 percent shooting (9-for-39) from long distance. “It was an odd game for our post guys to have to play defensively, but our post guys did a great job.”

Junior returning leading scorer Kentrell Barkley tied for the game high with 14 points and a team-high eight rebounds, while freshman Shawn Williams knocked down his first two career 3-pointers as part of his 14-point ECU debut.

Also making a strong first impression was former Hawaii transfer Isaac Fleming, who added 12 points and four assists to the cause.

“I thought it was a good team effort and I thought our freshmen had some good minutes,” Lebo said. “I’m really excited about all those guys and I think you’re going to see them playing a lot this year with some of the attrition that we’ve had. I’m very pleased with the outcome of the first game.”

ECU shot 44.8 percent from the floor and connected on 20-of-27 free throws while cruising to the finish line.

Fleming drove the lane for a basket late in the first half that gave the hosts a 20-point cushion, 36-16, and fellow transfer Usman Haruna swatted a Coppin State shot at the other end for one of his two blocks to accentuate the ECU takeover.

Adam Traore led Coppin with 10 points, but only three of those came in the second half as the Eagles steadily faded.

The Pirates are back on the floor on Wednesday when they host Radford.

“I wouldn’t say there were any jitters. It was more so me just getting comfortable with the speed of play and playing 40 minutes,” Fleming said of his first ECU game after sitting out last year.

The Pirates were already in control by the intermission, leading 40-18 after riding a 9-0 run through the middle portion of the half.

The first of a couple of Williams 3-pointers in the half gave ECU its first 10-point cushion at 18-8 with 8:59 left in the first, and the lead reached 29-13 by the end of the run.

“It helped a lot because if my teammates are comfortable passing it to me, I’m comfortable shooting it,” Williams said of his strong debut.

ECU had many contributors in the opening 20 minutes, led by 10 points from Fleming, who routinely drove the lane for his chances, including six late points in the half to pad the Pirate lead.

Williams canned a couple of treys in the half on his way to eight points, while Barkley chipped in five and had three rebounds along with Aaron Jackson and Haruna.

The first basket of the season for ECU was a left-handed dunk by Barkley, and the Pirates led the entire half outside of a brief 3-2 Coppin State edge early in the game.

Traore posted seven points to lead the Eagles in the first half, as his team posted an anemic 18.5 percent shooting percentage from the floor.

The Pirates, meanwhile, shot 45.5 percent and made 7-of-10 from the free throw line.

Contact Nathan Summers at nsummers@reflector.com, 252-329-9595 and follow @NateSumm99 on Twitter.

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