Asheville outlasts Pirates

Published 6:33 pm Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sunday afternoon, coach Jeff Lebo and his young, new-look Pirates experienced their first taste of defeat in what should be an up and down season.

The UNC Asheville Bulldogs left Minges Coliseum with a 83-79 victory on the back of a 43-27 rebounding advantage and 28 points from sophomore standout point guard Andrew Rowsey.

“[Asheville] had the best player on the floor — no doubt about that,” said Lebo in the postgame. “He’s a terrific player. I really have a great appreciation for how tough he is and how smart and crafty he is. He just dominated the game.”

The 5’10” Lexington, Va. native killed the Pirates off the dribble and it resulted in 16 free throw attempts, of which he made 15.

ECU suffered a sluggish first half that turned out to be too daunting to overcome. The Pirates shot just 33 percent from the field (5-15), likely a result of poor ball movement and sloppy play; ECU had just two first half assists and 11 turnovers. Asheville had almost an equally ugly shooting half but 12 field goals compared to the Pirates’ five were enough to carry the Bulldogs into half time with a 38-28 lead.

The second half was a completely different story for ECU, as the Pirates cut their turnover count to two and were able to record nine assists resulting in a 55 percent shooting percentage. But UNC Asheville also stepped up its game and answered every ECU assault.

In one of the more crucial examples, the Pirates cut the Bulldogs’ lead to six (62-56) with 6:45 remaining in the second half, but Asheville quickly responded with a 5-0 run. ECU reached that six point deficit again until there was 45 seconds remaining and the 83-79 final was the closest that ECU came to catching up.

The ultimately unsuccessful but valiant ECU comeback effort was spearheaded by full court pressure in the final four minutes that caused three turnovers. Sophomore small forward Caleb White also had 18-second half points and 24 overall, leading the Pirates’ offense.

“We took a lot of quick shots in the first half,” noted White. “Those are pretty much turnovers with a long rebound. It’s a brand new offense and we haven’t gotten everything down. It’s a work in progress, but we’ll get there.”

Interior defense was another issue for ECU. Both teams got in foul trouble forcing the forwards to contest shots less aggressively, and Asheville did a better job of scoring in the paint and getting to the free throw line. Down low, forward Kern Ubaru was a thorn in ECU’s side, especially in the first half. Ubaru finished with 17 points and nine rebounds.

“Rotations were kind of an issue,” said White. “We got beat a couple times on the baseline. But credit to them; we have to be better.”

ECU (1-1) will look to get back in the win column Thursday against Lynchburg (Va.) again in Minges.