Green Wave drowns ECU
Published 4:20 pm Wednesday, December 31, 2014
GREENVILLE — Coming into Wednesday, Tulane combo guard Jonathon Stark was enduring an 8-for-30 stretch from behind the arc, but the Munford, Tenn. native went off against ECU (7-7, 0-1) on the road and was the catalyst in a 67-59 Green Wave victory.
Stark had 22 points, shooting 8-for-11 (4-for-5 from beyond the arc), including a handful of buckets at the end of the shot clock that proved demoralizing for the ECU defense; Pirate senior Paris Roberts-Campbell described them as “daggers”.
“Four of [his shots] were unbelievable,” said ECU head coach Jeff Lebo. “You can’t do any better than that. You just congratulate him, go to the other end and try to score.”
The first half was a tale of two runs.
ECU opened the game with a 24-10 lead against a Tulane squad that might have been struggling with its confidence after two consecutive losses. At the 7:32 mark, Tulane coach Ed Conroy found the right words for his team.
“We always say, ‘Don’t look at the scoreboard; just take it possession by possession,’ but this past game we played St. John’s and played really poorly. And I thought our guys were feeling sorry for themselves and we started the game looking that way. So I told them, ‘Take a good look at that scoreboard,'” said Conroy. “We’re going to find out a lot about who we are in the next eight minutes.”
If the next eight minutes showed the real Tulane, then the Green Wave will likely be contending for an American Athletic Conference crown, considering Conroy’s team went on a 25-2 run to close out the half and brought a 35-26 lead into the locker room.
Tulane shot 63.6 percent in the first half aided by eight ECU turnovers and a 14-5 points-off-turnovers advantage.
In the second half, ECU kept battling and fought back several times, even making key plays in one-possession moments, but Tulane, most notably Stark, made the shots when it mattered against decent ECU defense.
“Every shot they hit down the stretch was a dagger,” said Paris Roberts-Campbell. “It seemed like we just couldn’t get the lead. We got within one and we got hit with a ‘tech.’ We get within one and they hit a three. We just couldn’t get over the hump.”
The technical foul that Roberts-Campell referred to came at the 7:04 mark when ECU was trailing, 54-53. After an ECU bucket by forward Michel Nzege, Caleb White, who had hit three treys in the half already, was whistled for a technical after, according to the official, throwing the ball at the feet of a Tulane player. The sequence resulted in a critical five-point swing in favor of the Green Wave, as Stark hit both technical free throws and then drained a three-pointer at the end of the shot clock.
The closest ECU would come the rest of the way was a three-point deficit (61-58) at the 4:05 mark.
“He kind of just popped the ball back and it happened to hit the hip of the kid from Tulane who was boxing him out,” said Lebo, referencing the call on White. “It was a five-point play and it gave Caleb, who had just made three threes, his fourth foul. That didn’t go in our favor.”
It was the AAC conference debut for both squads and Tulane finished on top after out-shooting ECU, 54 percent-to-47 percent. The Pirates, outside of the huge run at the end of the first half, played well offensively. They shot 10-for-19 from behind the arc, with four of those misses coming in desperation time down the stretch, but Tulane out-shone them, draining 8-of-13 treys.
“[If we hit 10 three-pointers] I would expect to win definitely but we just didn’t get enough stops at the other end,” said Roberts-Campbell.
The Pirates will look to rebound and capture their first ever AAC win Jan. 3 on the road against South Florida.