Pirate defense - UNF game

Pirate defense — UNF game

East Carolina’s Noah Farrakhan and Bitumba Baruti, left, defend against North Florida on Dec. 10.

There was balance in East Carolina coach Joe Dooley’s breakdown of his team’s defense Saturday in a 73-64 victory over James Madison, giving the basketball Pirates a 6-1 record to take into a Tuesday matchup versus Tulane in hopes of evening their American Athletic Conference record at 1-1.

It was a rather thorough performance for ECU against JMU, highlighted by the Dukes’ final lead of the game being 6-4 at the 16:58 mark in the first half.

“We gave up 13 offensive rebounds and I thought our first-shot defense was really good, but we need to make sure we clean up those possessions,” Dooley said during his postgame Zoom session. “We stood and watched a lot. They did a good job, especially late in the game, and to our guys’ defense, it is hard when you have a lead and guys are putting their head down and driving. One of the things the coach says is don’t foul and you don’t want to put them on the line or stop the clock. … If we would have defensive rebounded the ball, I thought we could have scored more and really gotten out on the break. It was disappointing that we gave up so many offensive rebounds, when we haven’t done that all year for the most part.”

ECU finished with 10 offensive rebounds, led by three from Bitumba Baruti. Total boards were 38-33 in favor of the Dukes (2-2).

Tulane is 10th in the AAC in scoring offense out of 11 teams and 10th in rebounding margin. ECU is No. 7 in rebounding margin.

JMU trailed 33-25 at halftime to ECU, which scored 40 points after halftime and got a big boost from bench players Brandon Suggs (team-high 18 points) and Baruti (16 points, seven rebounds).

Another huge positive on the court for the Pirates was Jayden Gardner, who left the previous game against SMU limping and favoring his back. He had 13 points, five rebounds and three fouls in 36 minutes.

“We did some treatment for all our guys and stretching (Thursday) and we practiced yesterday morning for a little bit and then yesterday afternoon, so he was able to go for both of those deals,” Dooley said Saturday of Gardner, who is third in the American at 18.1 points per game heading into the 3:30 p.m. matchup versus the Green Wave (5-1, 0-1).

Dooley also said J.J. Miles is day-to-day with a leg injury. The 6-foot-7 senior guard played 17 minutes against SMU on Dec. 16 and was inactive versus JMU.

Suggs said the Pirates, who lost 70-55 at SMU, were motivated to piece together a complete performance Saturday. There also was motivation from a 99-89 loss at James Madison in 2019.

“We lost to SMU and played hard all game and played defense great, but (against JMU), we wanted to take It from playing defense in the first half to the second half and put it all together,” he said.

Women winning away

East Carolina’s women are 2-0 in the American Athletic Conference and already topped their number of road wins from last season thanks to a 74-67 Sunday victory at Cincinnati.

ECU was 2-11 on the road a year ago in coach Kim McNeill’s first season leading the Pirates. They are 3-2 this season.

“We haven’t even reached the tip of our potential and we’re still moving forward and still growing, but I’m just so proud of the perseverance we’ve showed over the last 48 to 72 hours,” McNeill said during her postgame Twitter video on the ECU Women’s Basketball account.

The Pirates (4-3 overall) went on a key 15-2 run in the fourth quarter, turning their 53-51 edge to a 68-53 advantage at the 5:00 mark. ECU also benefited from 24 turnovers by Cincy (1-4, 0-1) compared to 12 of its own. That led to a 30-17 edge for ECU in points off turnovers.

Lashonda Monk poured in a career-high 32 points and had four steals in the first 30-point performance by a Pirate since December of 2017. Dominique Claytor scored three points with four of the Pirates’ 11 steals.

Charlotte transfer Maddie Moore scored 10 in her season debut. Monk, who was named AAC player of the week Monday for the first time in her career, went 9-for-10 from the free throw line and 3-of-5 on 3-pointers.

“Monk scores 32 points and played like a first-team all-conference player today,” McNeill said.

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