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Mustangs trample Pirates again

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East Carolina guard Isaac Fleming is surrounded by SMU defenders in Minges Coliseum on Wednesday night.


By Nathan Summers
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Unable to defend the deep shot and equally incapable of making many of its own, the East Carolina basketball team turned in a listless performance on Wednesday night that left the Pirates an afterthought in a 77-58 loss to SMU.

The Mustangs recorded their second blowout of the Pirates in as many tries this season, going wire-to-wire after opening up an 11-0 lead in the game and never letting ECU (10-16, 4-11 American Athletic Conference) get a sniff of a lead. Just two Pirate players scored in double digits compared with five from SMU (16-12, 6-9).

So convincing was the win that the visitors were up by 18 points, 24-6, before the 10-minute mark of the first half. Minutes later, it was a 20-point advantage and the Mustangs were ahead 41-23 at the intermission.

The closest ECU came to a comeback was briefly trimming the deficit to 13 points via a 7-0 run and a B.J. Tyson 3-pointer early in the second half, but after that it grew back to as many as 29 points.

Isaac Fleming had 21 points to lead ECU, followed by 14 from Tyson, but recent scoring leader Shawn Williams was 1-for-11 from the field, including going 1-for-10 from beyond the arc.

“Our team was distracted, and as a coach, you may have nights like this, but you always hope that you can find a way to get through a night like this ... we really struggled,” ECU interim coach Michael Perry said of the Pirates, who shot 34.5 percent from the floor compared with 46.6 by SMU. “The first half was telling. We dug a hole for ourselves. We came out flat, distracted. As a coach, you scratch your head sometimes to try to figure out how stuff like this happens.”

Perry said he did not know the source of the distraction, but said it was obvious he didn’t have the same team on the floor that gutted out recent wins against conference foes Memphis and Tulane.

Perhaps most troubling for the Pirates, who close out their home schedule against Tulsa next Thursday, was the performance of junior Kentrell Barkley, who returned from a two-game team suspension only to be ejected from the game after exchanging words with an official and receiving a double-technical.

Not only did Perry not defend his player’s actions, he said they were unprecedented in his coaching memory.

“I’m as disappointed as I’ve been since I’ve been coaching for 30 years, to see somebody just kind of lose themselves in that way,” Perry said of Barkley, who was tossed with 12:32 left in the game and after contributing just two points. “I’ve been in this game a long time. Regardless of how frustrated you are, there is a certain level, a certain accountability and responsibility that you have as a player. ... You can’t cross that line, and he certainly crossed that line and he will be dealt with as a result of that.”

Perry said he had not yet spoken with Barkley, who immediately exited the gym without saying another word. The coach said Barkley would not play for the team on Sunday at Houston.

“I totally agree with their actions. I would have done the same,” Perry said of the referees’ decision to eject Barkley.

SMU got open looks from outside the entire night, led by sharp-shooting Jahmal McMurray’s 20 points on 6-of-9 shooting from 3-point range. Ben Emelogu added 16 points, Jimmy Whitt 13 and Elijah Landrum and Akoy Agau 11 each, including 3-of-5 shooting from long range by Landrum.

SMU enjoyed a 39-30 advantage in rebounds and scored 19 points off ECU turnovers.

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

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