Pirates fall to UConn in final minutes

Published 11:36 pm Wednesday, February 25, 2015

DAVID CUCCHIARA | DAILY NEWS TOUGH BREAK: Connecticut’s Kentan Facey slashes his way into the pain Wednesday night in Minges Coliseum.

TOUGH BREAK: Connecticut’s Kentan Facey slashes his way into the pain Wednesday night in Minges Coliseum.


The East Carolinian


GREENVILLE — It was deja-vu all over again for ECU against the defending national champion Connecticut Huskies on Wednesday night.

This time the loss was especially painful.

Before 6,856 fans, the largest crowd since ECU played NC State in 2007, the Pirates blew another significant halftime lead. They led 33-24 at the break, and despite a change of scenery, they were bested by the experienced Huskies again, 60-49.

“We had great energy in the first half,” redshirt sophomore Marshall Guilmette said as he hid his face behind his hands. “In the locker room all we were saying was we needed to continue that energy for one more half. Unfortunately we weren’t able to do that.”

Ryan Boatright led all scorers with 16 points, although UConn didn’t rely on him as much as they had in these teams previous meeting. In just 18 minutes of playtime, Amida Brimah bested Guilmette when the two were matched up inside, including two quick dunks early in the game.

“They definitely rely on him for interior defense,” said Guilmette. “As a perimeter player it’s nice to have a guy like that behind you. You can count on him to have an impact on every shot. They’ve got a lot more confidence when he’s behind them.”

Head Coach Jeff Lebo said Brimah completely stopped the Pirates’ offense with his shot blocking ability.

“You can’t put a price tag on how many we missed (in the paint) that he had an effect on,” said Lebo. “Just his presence in there. Our guys know he’s in there.”

When Brimah was on the bench, due to foul trouble, Guilmette shined for the Pirates. He scored 13 points, grabbed seven rebounds, and his presence added a lot to the ECU offense. Largely thanks to Guilmette, the Pirates actually won the battle in the paint, scoring 30 points compared to UConn’s 22.

Lebo sat Guilmette with 17:07 remaining in the second half, Connecticut went on a 7-0 run, part of a larger 14-2 spurt, that gave them a 38-35 lead. ECU refused to chalk up their dearth of second half scoring to UConn’s defense, however.

“You can’t shoot 19 percent in the second half,” said Lebo. “We got some pretty good looks but just didn’t do it there.”

Junior guard Terry Whisnant shared a similar view on the Pirates’ second half offensive meltdown, saying he didn’t see any changes to Connecticut’s defensive strategy after halftime.

“They made a lot of shots in the second half that they didn’t in the first half. That was really the key for them,” said the junior.

ECU shot just 4-for-20 from long range in the game. Whisnant, one of the Pirates most consistent shooters, went just 1-for-7 from long distance. The Pirates closed the game shooting 2-of-13 from the field.

The Pirates will try to bounce back on the road against UCF on Saturday, Feb. 28.