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Pirates win on big comeback

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ECU's Jabari Craig (25) drives the lane against Campbell's Mogga Lado (15) Monday night at Minges Coliseum.


By Nathan Summers
The Daily Reflector

Monday, December 4, 2017

East Carolina basketball stormed back from 16 points down in the second half on Monday night to stun visiting Campbell, 69-66, for ECU’s third straight win.

Trailing 42-30 at halftime and then getting swamped 51-34 with 15 minutes to play, the unlikely comeback began and the Pirates (5-4) took a surprise third lead of the game, 67-66, with 26 seconds left.

Campbell then committed the first of two cataclysmic turnovers and fouled post man Jabari Craig, who managed to make one free throw followed by one from Kentrell Barkley after the second lost ball out of bounds by the Camels (4-5).

It marked the first three-game win streak for ECU in a calendar year.

“We showed a lot of mental toughness, physical toughness and the guys really dug down deep and pulled this one out,” said ECU interim head coach Michael Perry, now 3-0 since taking over for Jeff Lebo, who resigned last week. “I’m as proud of this team as any I’ve ever been associated with.”

The mental toughness was perhaps the biggest factor.

Perry admitted after the game that a major part of his halftime message was for his players to get over some of the pettiness between teammates and to truly come together as a team. Perry got his response.

“At halftime, I really challenged them to grow up, to lose some of the dysfunction, to stop being so sensitive among themselves and come together,” the coach said. “I told them didn’t care about the results of the game in the second half. I didn’t care whether we won or lost. I wanted to see, can this team come together?”

The ECU comeback was made possible by the three players Perry calls his alpha dogs. Issac Fleming had 19 points, B.J. Tyson 16 and Barkley 14 to lead the Pirates, who managed just 17-for-31 accuracy from the line.

The real drop in shooting percentage was that of Campbell in the second half. After humming at 47.1 percent in the first half, the Camels went cold in the second, shooting an anemic 30.3 percent.

“To be down almost 20 and to come back and fight, we just showed everybody we are a team to compete,” Fleming said. “It feels good.”

Marcus Buck led all scorers with 21 in the loss, followed by 12 for Shane Whitfield and 10 from Cory Gensler.

It was Fleming’s drive into the lane and flinging one-handed shot that put the Pirates in the lead to stay, and the former Hawaii player was a non-stop presence in the second half.

The Camels erupted on a 12-0 run to close out the first half, shattering a 30-30 tie with 4:08 to play and blanking the Pirates until the intermission came with the visitors leading 42-30.

That included six 3-pointers — two each from Gensler, Burk and Damontez Oliver.

ECU finished the game on a 13-2 run, and now can take a breather thanks to the onset of finals and a full two-week break before hosting Charlotte on Dec. 18.

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