Dry paint for Pirates

Published 9:58 pm Saturday, December 3, 2011

East Carolina coach Jeff Lebo (center) reacts during a game earlier this year. On Saturday, the Pirates fell 76-64 to Charlotte. (WDN Photo/Brian Haines)

GREENVILLE — Charlotte shut down East Carolina’s center Darrius Morrow and held up when the going got tough to hold off the late-charging Pirates en route to a 76-64 victory at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Saturday.
Morrow, who entered Saturday’s contest second on the team in scoring with a 14.5 points per game average, was held to zero points on 0-8 shooting from the field by a harassing Charlotte defense the outscored ECU 30-18 in the paint.
“He’s got to be ready to play and be physical,” ECU coach Jeff Lebo said. “People are going to double him and be physical with him. He’s going to be an emphasis to the other team and that means you have to elevate your game.”
Morrow, who was not made available to the WDN after the game, finished the contest with eight rebounds, two assists and five turnovers.
Despite the lack of production from its star center, East Carolina (4-3, Conference USA) managed to keep pace with the 49ers (4-2, Atlantic 10 Conference) thanks to a game-high 22 points from Miguel Paul, 13 points from Shamarr Bowden and 11 from Erin Straughn.
Robert Sampson grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds, while Straughn pulled down nine boards. There were plenty of rebound opportunities to be had for the Pirates as they shot a cool 32 percent from the floor and 31 percent from downtown. However, ECU did manage to make enough shots at the right times and only trailed Charlotte 26-25 at halftime.
In the second half, the 49ers’ lead blossomed into a 66-47 advantage after a three-pointer by Jamar Briscoe, who came off the bench to score a team-high 19 points.
Charlotte also received double-digit scoring efforts from Chris Braswell and Javarris Barnett who each tallied 13 points. Braswell, the 49ers’ junior center, was a force in the paint as he led his team with nine rebounds.
Sensing the game slipping away, East Carolina found its shooting touch and caught fire as it ripped off a 17-3 run highlighted by a few big buckets and steals by Paul.
A Paul free throw cut Charlotte’s lead to 69-64 with 2:39 left to play in the game, but the 49ers slammed the door shot on the Pirates’ rally by scoring the final seven points of the contest.
The fact that ECU got as close as it did despite only two points from C/F Austin Steed and Morrow combined is a tribute to the Pirates’ supporting cast. One of those guys being Bowden, who scored 10 of his 13 points in the second half.
“We still had a chance to win even with (Morrow) going 0-8 and having five turnovers in 36 minutes. That’s your leading scorer, the one guy you’d think you can count on,” Lebo said. “But, Shamarr Bowden played very well coming in off the bench in the second half and made some shots.”
Charlotte’s Briscoe also had a huge night coming off the pine as he fought off early foul trouble to score 18 of his 19 points in the second half.
“That’s what he can do,” Charlotte coach Alan Major said. “He’s a guy that’s wired to score.”
Major said he was proud of the way his team showed resiliency away from home.
“It’s good to get a win on the road, I don’t care who you’re playing … (East Carolina) doesn’t lose here often,” said Charlotte coach Alan Major, who with the win handed the Pirates their first home loss of the season. “They taught us a lesson that you have to keep playing. With a young team like ours we got excited a little bit but it’s a good lesson that you have to play for the full 40 minutes.”