Pirates can’t get shots to fall in loss to Charleston

Published 1:23 am Friday, December 16, 2016

GREENVILLE — East Carolina looked lethargic on the offensive end of the court after a nine-day layoff between games. The Pirates went long stretches without scoring in Thursday’s 53-35 loss to College of Charleston.

The loss marked the fewest points ECU had scored in the shot-clock era. The previous low was 36 against Wisconsin-Green Bay in 1998.

“The offensive side of the ball, it was just a rough night for our three best players,” ECU coach Jeff Lebo said. Caleb White had 10 points, but Kentrell Barkley only had three points at the free-throw line and B.J. Tyson was scoreless on his eight shot attempts.

“… Offensively, there’s not one thing on there that’s, offensively, remotely close to being good. Defensively, there’s good things to talk about, but offensively, it was just abysmal by our team tonight.”

Both teams were slow out of the gate. The Cougars last played on Sunday against a Division II opponent in Anderson University. It broke up what would have otherwise been an 11-day stretch without a game, which may have been the difference.

“We played a game about five or six days ago. We would have had about 10 days off,” Charleston coach Earl Grant said. “We played a non-Division I team and broke it up. I think that helped. … If you have a long break, it’s hard. It’s hard to have that game rhythm. If you don’t play a game, it’s a different pace. You don’t have the referees. With a long break, it’s hard to adjust. I think a lot of teams are going through that right now.”

The Pirates had more turnovers (15) than they did points (13) in the first half. White knocked down a 3-pointer at the buzzer to save his team from setting a new record for fewest points in a half.

Charleston opened the first half on a 19-0 run. ECU didn’t get on the scoreboard until freshman Jeremy Sheppard drew a foul on a layup and converted on the free throw with 12:34 to play. Sheppard, who finished the game with a team-best 11 points off the bench, did everything in his power to breathe life into the offense, but it was dead on arrival.

“I thought (Sheppard) came in and did some good things. He gave us a lift,” Lebo said.

The 3-point play by the rookie point guard gave the Pirates a spark as they went on to rattle off a 13-0 run. Sheppard put in two more layups, and center Andre Washington got his mid-range game going to cut the deficit to 16.

“I don’t really think it was a defensive problem, so to say,” Washington said. “I think it was more getting into the flow of our offense, and we did that in the second half during that stretch. Jeremy got us into the offense. It was flowing. That stretch we had, we have to play like that the whole 40 minutes.”

The Pirates cranked up the pressure on defense. Forward Deng Riak impressed on the front end of a trap defense. It forced turnovers that helped ECU get as close as 11 points with 2:50 left to play. However, Charleston made the most of its chances at the charity stripe, and Joe Chealey nailed a 3-pointer to put the nail in the coffin.

The Pirates will now aim to bounce back when they travel to UNC-Wilmington on Tuesday.