East Carolina basketball coach Joe Dooley sees a link between his team’s recent surge in wins and attendance numbers rising in Minges Coliseum.
“This is a team that can grow on people,” he said before Tuesday’s practice. “They are young and really don’t know what they are doing yet, but they try pretty hard. That’s what our fans want to see is to give a good, solid effort and continue to get better. I think they see some young guys who we can grow this program with.”
It starts with Jayden Gardner, a passionate and often smiling 6-foot-7 sophomore forward who leads the American Athletic Conference in scoring (21.3 points per game) on an ECU team (8-8, 2-1 AAC) that does not have a senior on its roster.
Freshman guard Brandon Suggs is second on the Pirates in scoring in league-only games. ECU’s starting lineup now features two freshmen — Suggs and center Charles Coleman — and there are plenty of role players who transferred to East Carolina last offseason to try to help the Pirates.
“Definitely winning builds confidence, and we have won great games and difficult games,” said junior Bitumba Baruti, a product of Chipola (Fla.) College, about the Pirates and their 6-1 record in their last seven outings. “It just makes us more confident in ourselves going forward.”
Tulsa (10-6, 2-1) at East Carolina (8-8, 2-1), 7 p.m.
How to watch: ESPN3.
Why to watch: ECU hasn’t lost a home game since Dec. 3, good for a six-game win streak in Minges Coliseum, and this is also the team’s first contest since students fully returned to campus for the spring semester. The Pirates are hoping a solid student turnout could add to the Minges atmosphere versus a Tulsa team that has a 1-4 road record.
Matchup to watch: Tulsa likes to use its experience and depth for streaky scoring spurts. Golden Hurricane junior guard Darien Jackson did not start versus Houston on Saturday, but he led his squad with 19 points in a 63-61 win. Bench player Martins Igbanu, a 6-8 senior, scored 14 in a blowout win earlier versus Temple, but Tulsa’s lone league loss was a 75-44 setback to Cincinnati when the Hurricane used 10 players and nobody reached double figures in points.