BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD: ECU surrenders second-half lead in 3OT loss
Published 2:25 pm Thursday, February 11, 2016
GREENVILLE — Just two weeks ago it seemed that the East Carolina men’s basketball team had started to learn to close out games, but after a second half collapse followed by a 100-92 triple-overtime loss to Tulane Wednesday night, it is back to the drawing board.
After two indecisive overtime periods, fatigue became evident for the Pirates as Tulane caught a second wind. With ECU on its heels early in the third overtime, Louis Dabney, who had come through in every clutch instance for the Green Wave, threw an alley-oop to Melvin Frazier. Frazier slammed it home, converted the and-one free throw and gave Tulane a three-point lead with three minutes left in the overtime.
The wind was taken from the Pirates’ sails and Dabney finished the job with a 3-pointer one minute later to extend the lead to six. Dabney converted four late-period free throws to seal the game and Tulane’s second conference win of the season.
“From the 10-minute mark on (in the second half) and all the overtimes, I thought we looked tired legged, defensively in particular, and they took advantage of it,” ECU head coach Jeff Lebo said after the loss.
Prince Williams, Kentrell Barkley and B.J. Tyson each played 49 minutes in the loss and combined for 70 of the Pirates’ 92 points. Barkley stood out on the glass and defensively as he pulled down a career-high 14 rebounds and picked up five steals to go with his 20-point outing. Williams had a career night with 25 points, that all seemed to come in crunch time, and nine assists. Tyson added 25 of his own.
The Pirates (10-14, 2-9 American Athletic Conference) led by 12 with 8:52 left in the game, but the spirited Green Wave stuck around on the back of Dabney and Malik Morgan. From the 8:52 mark to the end of regulation, Morgan sank four 3-pointers and scored 14 points to lead Tulane back into the game.
Dabney finished the job with three seconds left in regulation as the senior curled around Prince Williams in the paint to sink a layup and tie the game at 71. Dabney was again the hero at the end of the first overtime. He got open in the left corner off an inbound play and buried a trey to tie the game with 32 seconds left. The guard finished with a game-high 32 points and had six assists.
“That’s just Lou Dabney,” Tulane head coach Ed Conroy said after the win. “He’s struggled a bit with his body this year and just being totally healthy, but he was fresh tonight. I thought he was sensational and the last part of the second half. I thought he was the one guy that was really effective and was able to get other guys involved.”
The Pirates’ shot 23-of-35 (65.7 percent) from the free throw line in the loss and the misses came at times where conversion was needed. Barkley missed three attempts at the line in the first overtime.
When asked what can be learned from difficult losses, Barkley was quick to recognize his misses.
“I personally didn’t come up on free throws,” Barkley said. “I missed a couple that could have gave us the win, unfortunately. This is tough, though. We just have to minimize breakdowns on defense because in the end, that’s what it comes down to.”
Caleb White came off the bench again for the Pirates as he continues to recover a series of bumps and bruises. The junior logged 41 minutes and shot 2-of-8 from the field and 1-of-6 from behind the arc.
Lebo said White, who went to the locker room briefly near the end of the second half, hurt his ankle in the game. He is not likely to miss any time. However, White’s recent cold spell since returning from a concussion has been difficult for the Pirates to overcome.
“It’s been a challenge for us, I mean, he’s really struggled,” Lebo said. “He’s really struggled offensively for us, not giving us anything.”
Things go from tough to tougher for the Pirates, who dropped a double overtime game last week, as they kicked off a span of four games in 10 days against Tulane. The Pirates face Cincinnati on Saturday. The stretch also includes South Florida and Southern Methodist.