Pirates lose shootout with the Patriots

Published 11:43 am Sunday, November 23, 2008

By By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
GREENVILLE — For 40 minutes shots were fired from every angle all over the court as East Carolina’s Sam Hinnant and George Mason’s Andre Cornelius were engaged in heavy shootout that might as well had the “Anything you can do, I can do better” song playing over the loudspeaker.
When the smoke cleared and the dust settled, Hinnant had won the battle with 27 points, but it was the Patriots, backed by Cornelius’ 19 points, that had won the war with 77-71 victory on Saturday.
The loss was the first of the season for the Pirates (3-1), and while offensive balance had been the prevailing theme in their first three wins, it was nowhere to be found on Saturday.
Aside from Hinnant, ECU had only one other double-digit scorer in Chad Wynn (11), while George Mason (3-1) four.
The Pirates got a good effort by point guard Brock Young who dished out a game-high 10 assists, but only mustered two points, as well as Jamar Abrams who grabbed 10 boards and scored nine. However, as a team, they lacked fire power down the stretch, scoring only 11 points in the final 10 minutes.
Cornelius’ 19-point effort was matched by Louis Birdsong, while Dre Smith chipped in 12 and Cam Long added 10.
Nearly half the Patriots’ points came from downtown as they hit on a sizzling 61 percent (8-13) of their threes in the first half, and connected on 11 out of 24 for the game.
It would be easy to point the finger at the Pirates’ defense for allowing that to happen, but the truth is they had a pretty solid evening on the defensive end. It was a night where they would just have to tip their cap to the Mason shooters.
East Carolina, which used several defenses, put a priority on stopping the dribble penetration, electing to back off on the shooters on pick-and-roles and keep the opposing ball-handlers from getting in the paint.
Birdsong had an outstanding day, not only did he tie for the team-high in scoring, but he was also able to shutdown Hinnant midway through the second half.
Hinnant gave an amazing performance, hitting big shots whenever his team needed them. One of his biggest was a three-pointer with under 30 seconds left in the first half to give the Pirates a 39-38 lead going into the break. Hinnant went into halftime with 18 points.
But after Larranaga decided to move 6-6, 235-pound Birdsong on Hinnant, the ECU gunslinger was unable to make a shot.
Hinnant simply did not get enough touches down the stretch to exploit the bigger Birdsong off dribble, and the Pirates were not able to locate other mismatches on the floor.
With about four minutes left to play ECU’s Jontae Sherrod nailed a jumper to tie Mason at 66, however, from that point on the Patriots went on an 11-5 run to close out the game. With Hinnant being shadowed by Birdsong, the Pirates’ secondary scorers struggled to deliver.
East Carolina will look to bounce back on Tuesday, when it plays the final game of a five-game home stand against VCU at 7 p.m.
Monroe 2-4 5-7 9, Birdsong 9-12 1-1 19, Smith 5-14 0-0 12, Long 3-8 2-4 10, Vaughan 2-8 2-3 8, Cornelius 7-12 0-0 19, Tate 0-1 0-0 0, Morrison 0-0 0-0 0, Pearson 0-2 0-0 0, Moldoveanu 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 28-63 10-15 77.
Abrams 1-6 2-2 4, Wynn 5-7 1-2 11, Legan 3-8 0-0 8, Hinnant 8-16 5-5 27, Young 0-7 2-2 2, Morrow 3-5 1-3 7, Turner 0-0 0-0 0, Sherrod 3-3 0-0 8, Joyner 1-1 2-2 4. Totals 24-53 13-16 71.
Halftime—East Carolina 39-38. 3-Point Goals—George Mason 11-24 (Cornelius 5-7, Vaughan 2-3, Long 2-4, Smith 2-8, Tate 0-1, Moldoveanu 0-1), East Carolina 10-24 (Hinnant 6-13, Sherrod 2-2, Legan 2-5, Abrams 0-1, Young 0-3). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—George Mason 36 (Monroe 9), East Carolina 35 (Abrams 10). Assists—George Mason 18 (Long 6), East Carolina 15 (Young 10). Total Fouls—George Mason 17, East Carolina 16. A—4,781. tion Pictur