Flames’ buzzer-beater burns Pirates

Published 12:47 pm Sunday, November 18, 2007

By By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
GREENVILLE — East Carolina rallied back from a 13-point deficit to tie Liberty at 53 with less then 20 seconds remaining in the game, but the Flames’ Alex McLean extinguished the Pirates hopes for a victory with a tip-in basket that fell threw the net as time expired to give Liberty a 55-53 win.
Saturday night’s loss was the second heartbreaker in a row for East Carolina, who came into last night’s game looking to rebound from a 67-65 overtime loss to Richmond on Tuesday.
The Pirates offense sputtered through the first 30 minutes of the game as they fell behind 41-28, but behind the strong play of Darrell Jenkins, Brock Young and Gabe Blair the Pirates ripped off a 25-12 run.
Jenkins, who was held scoreless in the first half, tallied 12 second-half points, and when he drained a three along the right baseline the Pirates cut the Flames lead to 53-52 with 52 seconds left on the clock.
The East Carolina defense held strong and, with 18 second left to play, Young went to the free throw line to shoot two. However, the freshman missed his first free throw of the season and went 1-2 from the line.
Liberty in-bounded the ball and looked to run a back door play, but when that didn’t work, TeeJay Banister drove to the hoop and fired off a wild shot from the right wing. Bannister’s shot rolled off the rim and past the out-stretched arms of John Fields to McLean, who tipped it in as the clock flashed 0.00.
The final seconds were so hectic that McLean said he wasn’t sure what was going on, but was happy to have a chance to win the game.
Despite the first-half scoring drought, the Pirates entered halftime only down 19-17. Though they weren’t scoring, the Flames weren’t either.
That all changed in the second half as Liberty guard B.J Jenkins destroyed East Carolina from downtown as he went 4-6 from behind the arc to finish with a game-high 22 points.
Gabe Blair led the Pirates with 15 points, while pulling down five boards.
Though McLean’s tip-in sealed the deal, the real culprit was the slow Pirates start. ECU failed to move the ball around on offense to establish either an inside or outside presence. The Pirates also failed to get out in transition as they finished the game with a meager two fastbreak points.
It wasn’t until late in the game that the offense picked up, and Jenkins said it wasn’t enough.
East Carolina will look to get back on track Tuesday when they host N.C. Wesleyan at 7 p.m.
McLean 5-11 2-4 12, Porter 1-2 1-3 3, Jenkins 9-15 0-0 22, Smith 2-5 3-4 8, Bannister 3-7 4-4 10, Holland 0-0 0-0 0, Ohman 0-2 0-0 0, Monroe 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-42 10-15 55.
Fields 2-5 0-1 4, Blair 7-11 1-1 15, Farmer 3-7 0-0 7, Hinnant 1-5 2-2 4, Jenkins 4-11 2-3 12, Legan 0-3 0-0 0, Young 2-4 3-4 7, Abrams 1-2 0-0 2, Sherrod 0-1 0-0 0, Wynn 1-3 0-0 2, Evans 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 21-53 8-11 53.
Halftime—Liberty 19-17. 3-Point Goals—Liberty 5-12 (Jenkins 4-6, Smith 1-3, Porter 0-1, Ohman 0-2), East Carolina 3-14 (Jenkins 2-4, Farmer 1-3, Young 0-1, Legan 0-3, Hinnant 0-3). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Liberty 28 (McLean 9), East Carolina 29 (Blair, Jenkins, Young 5). Assists—Liberty 11 (Bannister 6), East Carolina 11 (Young 4). Total Fouls—Liberty 15, East Carolina 17. A—4,205.