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Gardner gives timely boost to Pirates


East Carolina's head coach Joe Dooley, right, talks to Jayden Gardner during their game against James Madison on Nov. 9, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)


By Nathan Summers
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

With his ability to duck past defenders, lean into the post and find both sides of the rim for baskets, freshman Jayden Gardner is a breath of fresh air for the East Carolina basketball team.

After glimpses of promise but poor shooting in the team’s first two games this season, Gardner — a 6-foot-6 forward who prepped at Heritage High School in Wake Forest — put his full game on display in his third college contest. The rookie hammered home 30 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and went 12-for-14 from the free throw line as the Pirates (2-1) toppled Lamar in overtime on Sunday.

That came on the heels of going 1-for-12 from the floor in his first two contests.

“He likes to come to the gym and shoot extra,” ECU coach Joe Dooley said Sunday night of Gardner, one of three freshmen along with guards Tyler Foster and Tae Hardy who started the game. “He works every day. He was 1-for-12 coming into today, and he pops up and has a big game and saves us tonight.”

Four of Gardner’s boards were on the offensive glass, showing perhaps the most important part of his game to the Pirates.

In OT on Sunday, he extended ECU’s lead to 75-71 when he was sprung inside and fouled and hit both free throws. It was 77-73 after Gardner went underneath the basket for one of his handful of reverse lay-ins.

With 22 seconds to play and the Pirates still clinging to a slim lead, he was fouled in the paint again, and again he hit both foul shots to extend the lead to 82-78.

“The last game against JMU, I didn’t shoot my best from the free throw line, so I had to get up extra free throws (in practice) and as a team, we got up extra free throws, so it’s good to see that my work paid off,” Gardner said.

Teammate Seth LeDay, a Virginia Tech transfer who also has been a force with 21 points against James Madison and 16 to go with nine boards against Lamar, said he and Gardner go hard at each other in practice on a daily basis in the name of improvement.

The Pirates play at Georgia Tech on Friday night to continue nonconference play.

Women host GCU

The ECU women are off to exactly the start they would have hoped for under interim head coach Chad Killinger. They are 2-0 and set to host Grand Canyon tonight at 7 in Minges Coliseum.

The Pirates won the front end of last Friday’s Minges doubleheader, 73-67 over Monmouth. They rode Raven Johnson’s 19 points, Destiny Campbell’s fierce 17 points and seven blocks and Lashonda Monk’s 9-for-12 performance at the free throw line and 13 points. ECU also got 10 points and seven boards from Salita Greene.

“Hopefully it continues to give us some confidence,” Killinger said of the pair of opening victories. “We talked about just trying to have confidence each night going out. There’s just a couple of areas where we struggled (against Monmouth). We turned the ball over too much and we gave up way too many offensive rebounds. Those are things we can work on. We’re shooting the ball fairly well.”

Grand Canyon is 1-0 after a victory over Incarnate Word, 74-63, to open the season. A.J. Cephas had 21 points and seven rebounds to lead the Antelopes.

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


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