Pirates rattle Cobras

Published 11:10 pm Thursday, November 17, 2011

East Carolina center Darrius Morrow shoots a jumper during his team’s 63-50 win over Coker on Thursday in Greenville. Morrow scored a game-high 25 points and grabbed eight rebounds. (WDN Photo/Brian Haines)

GREENVILLE — After averaging eight points in the first two games of the season, East Carolina center Darrius Morrow erupted by scoring the Pirates’ first 11 points of the game against Coker to lead his team to a 63-50 victory on Thursday.
Morrow was a force in the paint as he was able to mix in a soft jumper with his array of post moves to shoot 10-of-14 from the floor for a game-high 25 points to up East Carolina’s record to 2-1.
“I was making shots early and I just kept going,” said Morrow, who also grabbed eight rebounds. “But the credit goes to all my teammates for setting me up. They were able to deliver the ball where I was able to catch it and score.”
While Morrow had no problem putting the ball through the iron, the same could not necessarily be said for his teammates who shot 4-12 from three-point land with junior Miguel Paul accounting for three of those made threes.
“It wasn’t a pretty offensive game but it was a win for the Pirates,” said ECU’s second-year coach Jeff Lebo, who with the victory became the third-fastest coach to reach the 20-game win mark in school history.
The Pirates jumped out to a 9-2 lead early thanks to Morrow’s hot hand, but Coker (2-1, NAIA) was able to tie the game up at 13 and again at 17 with under 10 minutes left to go in the first half.
Despite all the defensive attention being paid to Morrow, the Pirates’ perimeter players could not make the Cobras pay for doubling down on the ECU big man as they shot 0-5 from beyond the arc in the first half and 4-12 for the game.
Morrow would head into the break tallying 16 points, but Robert Sampson, who scored six first-half points, was the only other Pirate to score more than five after the first 20 minutes.
Lebo said it is imperative that his team begins to make a higher percentage of its jump shots.
“It’s hard because what’s going to happen now is people are going to double (team),” Lebo said.
The Cobras were led by Julian Nelson and Austin Harper who had 14 and 10 points, respectively, and while they tied the game a few times they were never able to take the lead.
In the second half East Carolina was able to constantly hold a lead over Coker but didn’t really start to break away from the Cobras until midway through the half when Paul provided the Pirates with a big spark by hitting three straight three-pointers with the third one putting the team up 52-37.
After Morrow, Paul was the team’s next highest scorer with 10 points. The junior point guard came off the bench to play five minutes in the first half, but played 17 in the second stanza.
Scoring has not been an issue for Paul, who came into the game averaging 19 points per contest, however, defense has been which is why the Missouri transfer did not start against Coker.
“Coach wasn’t pleased with my defense and I wasn’t either,” Paul said. “So I had to come off the bench to prove myself. I was watching a little bit too much on defense and (Lebo) wanted me to earn my spot back.”
Somebody whose spot looks pretty concrete right now is Sampson, who finished the game one point and one rebound shy of a double-double.
“Robert Sampson I thought was terrific,” Lebo said. “He had nine (points) and nine (rebounds), but his defensive effort – doing what we ask him to do out there –his effort plays were off the chain.
“You can see how much better he’s getting. He’s rebounding the ball in traffic with two hands above his head … I’m really proud of his play tonight.”
The Pirates will be back in action on Tuesday when they play Appalachian State in Charlotte.