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ECU wins ugly over Vaqueros

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East Carolina's Addison Hill (41) looks to pass as Texas Rio Grande Valley's Javon Levi guards Hill on the perimeter in Minges Coliseum.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Monday, November 19, 2018

Regional opponents for East Carolina basketball gave way to a visit Monday night from a school located at the southern tip of Texas just above the U.S.-Mexico border.

ECU withstood the unfamiliar test, taking control of the game against Texas-Rio Grande Valley during the first 12 minutes in Minges Coliseum and maintaining the lead the rest of the way to finish off a 69-64 victory.

The Pirates trailed 9-8 at the 14:48 mark of the first half, then they reeled off 17 straight points for a commanding 25-9 advantage with 9:26 until halftime. It was 41-28 Pirates (3-2) at the half.

UTRGV (3-2) whittled the ECU lead down to four points three times, including during the final minute, but Jayden Gardner provided a clutch three-point play with 32 seconds remaining and the Pirates closed out the victory to improve to 3-1 at home.

It was a win for the hosts despite them committing 26 turnovers and 26 fouls, which was still fresh on first-year coach Joe Dooley’s mind to begin his postgame comments.

“That was a circus right there for a little bit,” he said. “I thought our defense was great, for the most part, and it would have been even better if we didn’t turn it over and foul as much. When you turn it over 26 times it puts much more pressure on your defense, and for the most part we held tight.”

Gardner was 6-of-7 from the field and 3-for-3 on foul shots, finishing with 15 points and six rebounds and three fouls of his own. Teammates Isaac Fleming, Addison Hill, K.J. Davis and Seth LeDay each had four fouls, although no Pirates fouled out.

ECU shot 60 percent during the opening 20 minutes, but was 8-of-21 on field goals after the break.

“Winning is the most important thing, but we can't be satisfied with the way we played,” Gardner said.

LeDay had 12 points, eight boards and made all four of his foul shots. ECU finished 19-of-28 from the free throw line.

The victory kicked off a busy week for ECU, which will be back action in Minges on Wednesday against Prairie View A&M and hosts High Point on Saturday as part of a women’s-men’s doubleheader.

Hill, a South Central High School product and 6-foot-3 senior guard who was a team manager as a freshman, made his first career start. He had five points, five rebounds and was 2-for-2 from the line.

“Defensively he was not only good, but he was great,” Dooley said of the Winterville native. “He was our best matchup on (Terry) Winn. He was active and made a (3-pointer) and just did what he needed to do to help us win.”

The Vaqueros are coached by Lew Hill, who was an assistant under Eddie Payne and Dooley at East Carolina during the 1990s. The visitors went 6-of-27 from the outside, part of a 27.9 shooting percentage from the field.

UTRGV won the only other two meetings between the schools, proving victorious twice in 1981.

Hill dropped in a corner 3-pointer during the Pirates’ 17-0 run. Davis, the team’s leading outside shooter who finished with seven points, also hit a 3 during the run.

The scoring flurry was capped by Rico Quinton’s inside bucket for a 25-9 lead.

East Carolina was 4-of-6 from 3-point range during the first half. It finished 4-of-12.

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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