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Huskies run away from Pirates

Houston East Carolina Basketball-6

East Carolina's Isaac Fleming (0) reacts to a call during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Houston in Greenville, N.C., Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)

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By Nathan Summers
The Daily Reflector

Sunday, March 10, 2019

East Carolina manufactured a relentless performance that embodied the spirit of and was led by senior guard Isaac Fleming on Sunday afternoon in the guard’s final home game, but even that could not keep pace with Connecticut in an 82-73 Huskies win in Minges Coliseum.

The Pirates (10-20, 3-15 American Athletic Conference) finished the regular season battling, pulling to within two late, 64-62, in a game they led for most of the first half. But the Huskies dismantled the comeback, riding an 18-11 advantage the rest of the way.

The ECU loss came despite a valiant effort that saw Fleming post a double-double and Shawn Williams knock down two late 3-pointers to keep the Pirates within shouting distance. UConn, however, maintained its composure, and its lead.

ECU will begin play at the AAC tournament this week.

“I feel like I’m leaving a good legacy behind,” said Fleming, a former Hawaii transfer who scored 18 points and dished out 11 assists in his final home game. “I just want to thank this university for giving me the opportunity to come and not only display my talents and not only do it for the name across my back but also the one on my chest.”

First-year ECU head coach Joe Dooley said the Pirates’ late turnovers created too many easy transition baskets, including some dazzling dunks, by the Huskies (15-16, 6-12).

Although the injury-depleted ECU team mustered just three league wins, Dooley said there is a lot to like about the Pirates.

“We’ve gotten better compared to where we were in November,” Dooley said. “On the flipside, I think the teams we’re playing are a lot better. I do think we’ve gotten better and the guys have gotten more familiarity.

Williams tied for the game-high with 20 points, including 5-of-10-shooting from behind the arc. Former South Central High School star Josh Carlton, however, dominated the glass with a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double for UConn.

Also for ECU, senior Addison Hill added 10 points, Jayden Gardner amassed 11 points and nine boards and Dimitri Spasojevic added 12 points.

ECU tied the game on a Spasojevic jumper with 14:10 to play, and the Pirates played the Huskies close for the next several minutes until Tyler Polley (19 points, 5-of-7 3-pointers) took over for Connecticut, knocking down numerous outside shots. UConn led by 10 with 3 minutes to play.

The Huskies also got 16 points from Christian Vital, 13 points and 12 assists from Jalen Adams and 10 points from Sidney Wilson.

ECU raced out to a 9-2 lead in the game, but quickly it became a back-and-forth affair that the Huskies led 36-33 at the intermission.

After Hill came out blazing to score six of ECU’s first nine points, Williams took over, hitting consecutive 3-pointers at the midway point of the first half to give the Pirates a 19-15 edge. The lead grew to 25-19 on a great look from Fleming to Spasojevic.

UConn stormed back, however, to take its second lead of the half in the final minute of it on Carlton’s basket inside. He had 10 points, as did Hill, who along with Fleming and Justice Obasohan were honored before their final home games in Minges.

Williams added eight first-half points, while the Huskies got nine from Vital and eight from Adams.

The Pirates shot 46 percent in the first 20 minutes, but were outdone by Connecticut’s sizzling 61 percent.

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

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