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Memphis rallies, adds to ECU woes

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East Carolina's Shawn Williams shoots over Memphis' Alex Lomax during a game on Feb. 13, 2019. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Joe Dooley has warned about these funks, especially on the offensive end, that East Carolina’s basketball team has been prone to lately.

It happened again Wednesday night in Minges Coliseum when the Pirates were plenty competitive against a more talented Memphis team, but the Tigers pulled away late and left ECU with a 79-69 victory.

ECU’s final lead was 61-60 with 8:11 remaining. An 8-0 surge by Memphis (15-10, 7-5 American Athletic Conference) began a stretch of the Tigers outscoring East Carolina 19-8 the rest of the way.

ECU (9-15, 2-10) saw its most recent losing streak extended to four games. The previous loss was in overtime at South Florida.

“It is frustrating and everybody says it’s a building process, but when you are over there, it is not any fun,” said Dooley, who is in the first season of his second stint leading the Pirates and is now 66-67 all-time at the school, leaving the Pirates with no coach ever with a winning Division I record. “I was worried last week that we were a little worn out, but I do think the guys have shown some resiliency and some toughness. I haven’t had to get on them about effort and we don’t always play unbelievably smart, but I think we are playing hard and trying to win the game.”

Memphis started five seniors, led by guard Jeremiah Martin and his 31 points, thanks to going 3-of-7 from 3-point range and 12-for-15 on free throws.

The Pirates still haven’t defeated a team with a winning record since their upset of Cincinnati on Jan. 5. East Carolina will host Tulsa (14-10, 4-7) on Sunday.

“They have a workmanlike attitude and even though they are not as deep as they want to be right now, coach Dooley is doing a good job of keeping those guys focused on what they want to focus on,” UM first-year coach Penny Hardaway said. “They are playing their hearts out and he is going to build a program here because he is competitive enough, and the guys are listening to him.”

The Pirates had five players score in double figures, including Seth LeDay with 15 points and 10 rebounds off the bench. Shawn Williams scored 14 and Jayden Gardner had 13, nine in the second half.

Senior guard Isaac Fleming got hit in the face and played only six minutes, which took away a key defender against Martin.

“That didn’t help, but I don’t know who would have stopped Martin on some of those shots,” Dooley said.

UM’s 8-0 run to take the lead for good featured two 3-pointers by Martin. The second was a contested, step-back shot that swished.

“We lost here last year and I kept saying the message today was that we couldn’t lose this one,” Martin said.

Two LeDay free throws gave ECU a 55-54 edge with 11:29 left to play. That was the hosts’ first lead since it was 7-5.

The Tigers were up by as many as eight points before the midway point of the opening half.

Gardner went through the first 17 minutes without a point and was 0-for-3 on field goals until his inside basket at the 2:48 mark. The bucket, which came after crisp passes by DeShaun Wade and Dimitrije Spasojevic, cut the Memphis lead to 37-35. It was 40-37 UM at the break.

ECU’s Tyler Foster had eight points in the half and finished the game with 10 points, five rebounds and four assists in 33 minutes.

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

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