Seven up. Seven down.
The East Carolina men’s basketball team remained unbeaten at home following an 82-71 win over N.C. A&T on Tuesday.
The Pirates (8-2) swept their four-game homestand and opened the season with a 7-0 record at Minges Coliseum, which is the longest home win streak for the program since the 1993-94 season. The team will have 10 days off for final exams before returning against Liberty on Dec. 17 in Charlotte.
“We’re going to stay in the gym,” Pirates senior Vance Jackson said of the layoff. “We don’t want to lose this little rhythm we got going. We’re trying to keep it going.”
When it comes to rhythms, Jackson has been bumping to an upbeat tune. He’s scored in double figures in two of the past three outings, and punctuated this stretch of home games by pouring in a season-high 23 points against the Aggies (3-7).
The 6-foot-9 forward is showing signs of being a reliable force in this offense. He is finding ways to take over stretches of games with his ability to stretch the floor and attack the basket.
Jackson’s versatility was on display when he scored eight of his team’s 10 points during a four-minute stretch in the first half that included a jumper in the paint, a 3-pointer, a layup and a free throw.
His brimming confidence is evident as he took his most shots this season (15) and made eight — another season-high. He finished 4-for-9 from 3-point range.
“My confidence is never going to drop,” Jackson said. “I’m always going to let it fly. My teammates believe in me and I put in so much work every day before and after practice so it’s just a matter of time when they all are going to start dropping. I feel like I’m still missing too many shots, and I feel like as things get going, things will be more fluent.”
The Pirates are finding scorers all over their roster as Jackson has led the team in scoring in two of the past four games. Brandon Suggs and J.J. Miles were the leading scorers in the other two games. Elsewhere, Tristen Newton has led ECU in scoring three times in wins.
Some combination of those players have led ECU in each game.
“They were aggressive with ball screens with Tristen again tonight, and I do think it’s good,” ECU coach Joe Dooley said of the scoring options. “It’s nice to see a couple of those guys step up.”
Newton, the Pirates leading scorer on the season, finished with 14 points and went 6-for-6 from the free-throw line. Newton scored eight points in the game’s final 7:24. He has finished in double figures in every game this season.
Yet even when the sophomore guard doesn’t reach his team-high 18.2 points per game average, he is finding ways to impact the offense. Newton matched his season high in assists with eight, including seven by halftime.
“I always knew he could pass,” Jackson, an Arkansas transfer, said of Newton. “I came to this program watching film on all the guys and when I came here, the team was like, ‘You’re going to love playing with Tristen because he’s going to get you the ball.’”
ECU took a lead with 7:24 left in the first half and never trailed again. The Pirates were able to put away the Aggies in the second half without the services of Suggs, who played just over 11 first-half minutes before tweaking his ankle. He didn’t return.
The Pirates were also without 7-foot center Ludgy Debaut, who missed Tuesday’s game due to a family matter.
Dooley expects to have both back by the next game. Dooley also offered some positive news about forward Alanzo Frink, who hasn’t played since Nov. 27 due to an injury.
“Frink hopefully will be practicing some minutes at the end of this week,” Dooley said. “We’ll get Ludgy back on Thursday, so we’ll get those two guys back, which will help.”