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Pirates win big over Hawks

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Shawn Williams, (#55) goes to shoot before scoring, during a game against Maryland-Eastern Shore at Minges Coliseum, Sunday evening. (Juliette Cooke/The Daily Reflector)

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By Nathan Summers
The Daily Reflector

Sunday, December 2, 2018

One of the tenets of building a winning team is to simply experience winning, and the East Carolina basketball team worked on that Sunday night in a comfortable 70-47 victory against Eastern Maryland Shore.

The Pirates (6-4) built a monster 42-21 edge in the first half, but there was plenty to work on still in the second, most notably lead management in a game that briefly saw the visiting Hawks (1-8) pull back within 12 points before fading away entirely in the late minutes.

ECU posted four double-digit performers, led by freshman Jayden Gardner’s game-best 22 points to go with eight rebounds. Also for the Pirates, Seth LeDay, K.J. Davis and Shawn Williams each notched 10 points in a game that saw the hosts shoot 48 percent.

“Once we got the lead, after halftime we just really relaxed too much and took our foot off the gas,” ECU head coach Joe Dooley said. “We played in too many spurts. You can’t do that if you want to be really good, so we’ve got to continue to work on those types of things.”

Once again, Gardner and LeDay fell into a groove and fed off one another while also involving the team’s perimeter shooters, who finished 6-for-23 from three-point range despite a hot 5-of-11 finish in the first half. 

ECU also struggled from the line, making 8-of-17 free throws after going 7-for-13 before the intermission.

“We’ve got to create a mindset of winning,” Dooley said. “Having been around some really good programs, I think part of the reason is those teams believe they’re going to win and they know how it feels. They know they can’t take their foot off the gas until the game’s done. And I think it’s a little bit of human nature when you’re not familiar with it. ... One of the things we need to learn how to do is play with pressure.”

AJ Cheeseman and Montraz Oliver evenly divided 28 points to lead the Hawks, who never led the game and tied it just once, 2-2.

The Pirates will have an unprecedented 16-day break due in part to finals week. The team doesn’t play again until Dec. 18 at Charlotte, and Dooley thinks that is a good thing for his team.

“The team we are this year, it’s vital,” Dooley said. “When you’ve played so many games in a short period of time ... this time will give us some time to really get some repetitions, to be able to do a bunch of things and worry about getting ourselves better.”

ECU spent the first 20 minutes with lots of shooting room and eight different players factoring into a commanding 42-21 halftime lead.

At the forefront was Gardner, who bagged 13 points in the half including six of his team’s eight points in one swing that grew the Pirate lead to 33-10. Garnering six points apiece in the opening 20 were LeDay, Williams and Tyler Foster.

The Pirates sizzled at 55.6 percent shooting from the floor, including going 5-for-9 on 3-pointers. Their biggest lead of the half was 24 points, 36-12.

Eastern Shore, meanwhile, struggled to post 37.5-percent shooting, including a woeful 1-for-9 mark from behind the arc. Cheeseman notched eight of his 14 points to lead the Hawks in the first half.

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

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