McCarthy gets win in East Carolina debut
By By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
GREENVILLE — East Carolina’s acting head coach Mack McCarthy passed his first purple and gold test on Saturday as his Pirates marched past the Div. II Limestone Saints in their season opener 78-60.
While the Pirates were expected to rout the Saints, McCarthy said he wasn’t taking them lightly.
Darell Jenkins played a near flawless game as he led the Pirates with 17 points and seven assists while shooting 6-8 from the field (3-4 from downtown).
East Carolina stormed Limestone from the opening tip off as Jenkins and Corey Farmer nailed consecutive threes to spur a 14-3 run in the first five minutes.
With the Pirates holding an extensive lead over its Div. II opponent, McCarthy quickly went to his second unit and gave fans their first look at some of the team’s young guns.
Freshman point guard Brock Young got his first look at collegiate action along with fellow new comers Jamar Abrams, Jontae Sherrod, junior transfer James Legan and redshirt freshman Chad Wynn.
The group had a less than stellar debut as they allowed the Saints to rip off a 13-3 run, cutting the Pirates lead to 17-16.
Though each showed individual talent, they wrestled with opening day jitters, as well as lack of experience. However, that is to be expected when four freshmen and a transfer take the court at the same time in the season opener.
Young came out a little over anxious, but settled down to score nine first half points and finish the day with 11. The young point guard also made a few highlight reel passes, including a no-look ally-oop to John Fields in the second half. Fields finished the game with 14 points.
McCarthy said he has previously substituted his whole second unit at the same time with success, but said he is still searching to find the right combination of players.
The East Carolina starters checked back in midway through the first half and put the game out of reach with a 27-10 run to take a 44-26 halftime lead.
The Pirates’ first unit played solid man defense and was active in the passing lanes, tallying 11 steals and six blocks. Where both the first and the second team struggled was in their zone, where they were a step slow on rotations and looked confused about assignments at times.
Limestone guard Marques Williams took full advantage of the Pirates’ miscues as he scored a game-high 24 points by nailing perimeter jump shots all game long.
Overall, East Carolina played solid defensive game and limited Limestone to shooting 36 percent from the floor.
What may be a bigger concern for the Pirates was the fact that a Div. II team without a player taller than 6-6 on its roster out-rebounded them 41-38.
One player who showed a vast improvement from last season was sophomore forward Gabe Blair. The bulky 6-8 banger was extremely active on defense and on the glass.
Blair did a nice job staying with the smaller, quicker Limestone players, but was also a force underneath the hoop. Blair finished the game with only four points, but had a game-highs in steals with five, and rebounds with nine.
While Blair can erase shots, the Pirates are hoping to erase the memory of last year’s 71-67 overtime loss to Richmond on Tuesday when the two teams square off in Greenville.
The rematch will tip off 8 p.m. at Minges.